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As you can hopefully now see, the right question to have asked isn't which of two particular systems out of twenty on the market is "best" in some amorphous way, it is which of the twenty systems in the two thousand possible ways of configuring them with network, disk, memory, CPU, and compiler will get the most work done for your investment of a fixed amount of money. Answer that, and then make your purchase with confidence.

I'm sure that other list-humans have experiences or suggestions to share here. If you are very unsure of your abilities to carry out the list of chores above, there are at least 2 or 3 professional cluster consultants on the list who would probably help you for a moderate fee -- ask them to contact you offline if you are interested as they generally won't spam the list beyond maybe letting you know that they exist while helping to answer your original question. They can do anything from helping you with the prototyping and analysis to provide you with a cost-competitive turnkey cluster, depending on your needs and cluster management skills.

There is also the multi-core issue, which we will address in upcoming article. Stay tuned, because the multi-core snowball has started to roll across the HPC world.

I myself provide the kind of dear-Abby advice above on-list and charge only beer (should we ever meet). Mind you, at this point if I ever actually received the beer due me according to this rule, I would die in a gutter somewhere inside six months with my liver in complete failure, so it is probably just as well that I generally don't go to cluster meetings and so forth.

This article was originally published as a response Beowulf It has been edited and formatted for the web. You can view the original post and other interesting cluster discussions by visiting the list archives.

Robert Brown, Ph.D, is has written extensively about Linux clusters. You can find his work and much more on his home page

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