[Beowulf] The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership

Tim Cutts tjrc at sanger.ac.uk
Tue Aug 11 09:32:53 PDT 2009

On 11 Aug 2009, at 3:38 pm, Daniel Pfenniger wrote:

> Douglas Eadline wrote:
>> All,
>> I posted this on ClusterMonkey the other week.
>> It is actually derived from a white paper I wrote for
>> SiCortex. I'm sure those on this list have some
>> experience/opinions with these issues (and other
>> cluster issues!)
>>  The True Cost of HPC Cluster Ownership
>>  http://www.clustermonkey.net//content/view/262/1/
> This article sounds unbalanced and self-serving.
> While it I clear that self-made clusters imply added new costs
> in regard of turn-key clusters, they also empower the buyer
> using standard and open solutions by an increased independence from
> the vendor, and increases also its knowledge for future choices.
> This aspect is hard to measure in monetary terms, but certainly very
> important for some users.

I agree.  Some of the biggest IT problems I've encountered have been a  
direct result of vendor lock-in.  Companies get bought, and products  
crushed.  The wind changes direction, and products get dropped, side- 
lined, changed more or less on a whim.  Rash promises made by vendors  
which never come true.

In our case it was the dismembering of DEC during its various  
acquisitions which hurt us, and that saga contains examples of most of  
the above.

And then the customer has to start again, which can be enormously  
expensive in terms of researching new ways to go, and migrating  
services.  Just one part of that saga (the abandonment of the AdvFS  
filesystem) cost us more than six months of continuous work to get  
past, just copying the data onto something else.  That was years ago;  
with the petabytes of data we have now, it would be even worse.

Once bitten, twice shy.

If you've made the investment in house to have a vendor-agnostic  
setup, which we now have, we have complete freedom to choose whatever  
tin vendor we like, at least as far as our compute nodes go.  Our  
configuration, deployment and management software stack works on  
anything, so it's very little skin off our nose to change vendor.



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