[Beowulf] Altix vs. Beowulf

Guy Coates gmpc at sanger.ac.uk
Sat Apr 16 05:19:09 EDT 2005

On Fri, 15 Apr 2005, Peng Li wrote:

> We might get a grant for a new cluster/HPC server in a few months. The
> cluster/server will be mostly used to run MPI, PVM programs. We have a
> home-built 16-node P3 cluster running Rocks 3.3.0 and an Aspen cluster
> running Redhat 9.0. We are not quite satisfied with the built quality
> and reliability of the current clusters.
> Any experience with SGI Altix? Does Altix have real advantages over
> Beowulf? Anyone has any recommendations for good cluster vendors?

The altix is a very nice machine. We've got several, and we have been
very happy with them. We've also got a beowulf cluster.  They get used for
different things. The altix gets used for the codes which just won't fit
on the beowulf (large memory codes in our case), and the beowulf does
everything else.

The main disadvantage of the altix is cost of hardware.  The altix is
going to be significantly more expensive than the cluster. If your beowulf
needs a low latency interconnect, and you buy good quality components to
get reliability, then that cost gap narrows a bit but it never goes away.

The hard part to factor in is your time; a single altix machine is always
going to be easier to admin than a cluster. And nothing sucks up time like
a badly configured cluster or a cluster with unreliable hardware. How much
does it cost for you or your research group to be poking hardware rather
than doing science?

Of course, this is also an equally valid argument for not skimping on the
cost of you beowulf nodes.



Dr. Guy Coates,  Informatics System Group
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1223 834244 ex 7199

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