[Beowulf] Supercomputers - iPad versus Cray

Hearns, John john.hearns at mclaren.com
Thu Mar 8 07:08:05 PST 2012

What would be interesting is to know what is the value not the cost of a FLOP?

I tend to look at computational horsepower in the tool sense.  If my job is cutting wood, a chainsaw lets me cut a lot more wood than I could with a hand saw.  Since there's some value in a unit of wood cutting, one could come up with a chainsaw value in cords cut.

Likewise, we tend to evaluate computing solutions in terms of "how much more work can an engineer get done using the computation, than some alternative" (leaving aside the delightful negative productivity from Angry Birds on an iPad, but gosh it's great on a long plane flight)

That is a very good point.
There is also, as we know on here, value in 'time to solution' - which is what supercomputers with more mega/terafloppage can offer.
Calculations which were possible years ago, but which would take so long that you couldn't be bothered to wait for the result are now done.

One example was given by Jon 'Maddog' Hall in the very first talk about Beowulfery which I attended (at Compaq's offices in London).
A group in South America had built a Beowulf cluster, which was used for recognition of (I think) mammograms.
In the past, women who had to travel for maybe hours or days had to make a return visit to the clinic to get their diagnosis.
If the recognition could be run within the time of one clinic then the results are so much more useful.

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