[Beowulf] how Google warps your brain

Jack Carrozzo jack at crepinc.com
Thu Oct 21 08:48:12 PDT 2010

To add my $0.02 to Bills points, it becomes more difficult also when dealing
with multiple groups to decide on the type of setup and whatnot.

Where I went to school, the Math dept had a huge shared-memory SGI setup
whilst the Physics department had a standard Beowulf cluster. Both groups
used their systems rarely, and other departments had been asking for HPC
hardware also. However, after long debates by all parties, a
single infrastructure couldn't be decided upon and each independent dept
just got a little money to fix up their curent systems.


On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM, Bill Rankin <Bill.Rankin at sas.com> wrote:

> Good points by Jim, and while I generally try and avoid "me too" posts, I
> just wanted to add my two cents.
> In my previous life I worked on building a central HPC cluster facility at
> Duke.  The single biggest impediment to creating this resource was actually
> trying to justify its expense and put a actual number on the cost savings of
> having a centrally managed system.  This was extremely difficult to do given
> the way the university tracked its infrastructure and IT costs.
> If a research group bought a rack or two of nodes then they were usually
> hosted in the local school/department facilities and supported by local IT
> staff.  The cost of power/cooling and staff time became part of a larger
> departmental budget and effectively disappeared from the financial radar.
>  They were not tracked at that level of granularity.  They were effectively
> invisible.
> Put all those systems together into a shared facility and all of a sudden
> those costs become very visible.  You can track the power and cooling costs.
>  You now have salaries for dedicated IT/HPC staff.  And ultimately you have
> one person having to cut some very large checks.  And because of the
> university funding model and the associated politics it is extremely
> difficult, if not impossible, to actually recoup funds from the departments
> or even the research groups who would be saving money.
> In order to make it work, you really need the senior leadership of the
> university to commit to making central HPC infrastructure an absolute
> requirement, and sticking to that commitment when it comes budget time and
> the politics are running hot and heavy over who gets how much.
> Now to most of us this is a rehash of a conversation that we have had often
> before.  And with clusters and HPC pretty much established as a necessity
> for any major research university, the development of central facilities
> would seem to be the obvious solution.  I find it somewhat concerning that
> institutions like Harvard are apparently still dealing with this issue.
> -bill
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