[Beowulf] scalability

Gus Correa gus at ldeo.columbia.edu
Fri Dec 11 10:25:34 PST 2009

Hi Chris

Chris Samuel wrote:
> ----- "Gus Correa" <gus at ldeo.columbia.edu> wrote:
>> This is about the same number I've got for an atmospheric model
>> in a dual-socket dual-core Xeon computer.
>> Somehow the memory path/bus on these systems is not very efficient,
>> and saturates when more than two processes do
>> intensive work concurrently.
>> A similar computer configuration with dual- dual-
>> AMD Opterons performed significantly better on the same atmospheric
>> code (efficiency close to 90%).
> The issue is that there are Xeon's and then there
> are Xeon's.
> The older Woodcrest/Clovertown type CPUs had the
> standard Intel bottleneck of a single memory
> controller for both sockets.

Yes, that is for fact, but didn't the
Harpertown generation still have a similar problem?

Amjad's Xeon small cluster machines are dual socket dual core,
perhaps a bit older than the type I had used here
(Intel Xeon 5160 3.00GHz) in standalone workstations
and tested an atmosphere model with the efficiency
numbers I mentioned above.
According to Amjad:

"I have, with my group, a small cluster of about 16 nodes
(each one with single socket Xeon 3085 or 3110;
And I face problem of poor scalability. "

I lost track of the Intel number/naming convention.
Are Amjad's and mine Woodcrest?

> The newer Nehalem Xeon's have HyperTransport^W QPI
> which involves each socket having its own memory
> controller with connections to local RAM.

That has been widely reported, at least in SPEC2000 type of tests.
Unfortunately I don't have any Nehalem to play with our codes.
However, please take a look at the ongoing discussion on the OpenMPI
list about memory issues with Nehalem
(perhaps combined with later versions of GCC) on MPI programs:


> This is essentially what AMD have been doing with
> Opteron for years and why they've traditionally
> done better than Intel with memory intensive codes.

Yes, and we're happy with their performance, memory bandwidth
and scalability on the codes we run (mostly ocean/atmosphere/climate).
Steady workhorses.

Not advocating any manufacturer's cause,
just telling our experience.

> cheers,
> Chris

Gus Correa
Gustavo Correa
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory - Columbia University
Palisades, NY, 10964-8000 - USA

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