[Beowulf] Often favorable to hire HPC specialists over more hardware

Joshua Mora joshua_mora at usa.net
Fri Apr 5 20:52:09 PDT 2013

Similar rational arguments apply to why you want to invest into a good
I find though easier to justify these things in terms of the metric money
rather than performance metrics. Just HPC people are not that used to use the
metric money.
In other words it becomes a business decision.

Example : Compiler A, 10% better than Compiler B in terms of performance for
80% of applications on HPC infrastructure of cost 1M USD. Compiler A costs 30K
USD. Compiler B is open source (nothing wrong against GCC or Open64). It means
you can aproximately reduce your computing infrastructure and electric bill
and maintenance cost by a factor of 0.10*0.80=0.08  (8%). Total cost of system
is 1MUSD (HW). So you can have an impact on the  savings in hardware about 80K
USD. That by itself will compensate to pay 30K USD on the compiler. Add to
that savings the power savings and maintenance savings in the same percentage
for 3/4 years of life of the infrastructure. So 30K saved you 80K on HW+80K on
electric bill for 3/4 years and 80K for maintenance of 8% fewer nodes. Total
investment 30K , total savings 240K-30K=210K. 

Finally, with those 210K you hire a good HPC guy to optimize the code for a
solid year ;)


------ Original Message ------
Received: 03:30 AM CEST, 04/06/2013
From: Robin Whittle <rw at firstpr.com.au>
To: Beowulf Mailing List <Beowulf at beowulf.org>
Subject: [Beowulf] Often favorable to hire HPC specialists over more hardware

> Parts of the "Roadrunner shutdown" thread developed into a discussion
> about the benefits of hiring specialized HPC programmers as an
> alternative to spending more money on hardware.
> For the benefit of folks searching the archives, here is one of the
> messages in that sub-thread, from Brian Dobbins, which contains many
> points of interest:
>   http://www.beowulf.org/pipermail/beowulf/2013-April/031271.html
> including:
>   Why it may be worth hiring a good developer if there are a moderate
>   to high number of nodes in the system already - with rough dollar
>   cost estimates.
>   A number of programming- and compilation- level things which can
>   easily be fixed by a programmer with the right expertise, which
>   will greatly improve performance, but which might not be known by
>   programmers who are primarily interested in science.  Also, how
>   common they are.  (I wonder: if this is true, then perhaps half or
>   more of HPC cluster time is being wasted on this stuff, in
>   environments where many types of jobs are being run.  I figure
>   the people who devote clusters to one or a few programs probably
>   invest in writing and tweaking those programs well.)
>   Having a skilled programmer to ensure to that the results are
>   correct, not just that there are results at all, or results
>   faster than before.
>   "So that's my lengthy two cents in defense of why it's /very often/
>    favorable to hire HPC specialists over more hardware . . ."
> I know many people tend to like short chatty messages on mailing lists,
> but I like ones like this, for which Brian's apology: "(PPS.  Sorry for
> the length!)" absolutely does not apply.
>  - Robin
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