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Supercomputer Repossessed By State, May Be Sold In Pieces

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the super-auction dept.

Supercomputing 123

1sockchuck writes "A supercomputer that was the third-fastest machine in the world in 2008 has been repossessed by the state of New Mexico and will likely be sold in pieces to three universities in the state. The state has been unable to find a buyer for the Encanto supercomputer, which was built and maintained with $20 million in state funding. The supercomputer had the enthusiastic backing of Gov. Bill Richardson, who saw the project as an economic development tool for New Mexico. But the commercial projects did not materialize, and Richardson's successor, Susana Martinez, says the supercomputer is a 'symbol of excess.'"

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123 comments

Imagine... (4, Funny)

PaulBu (473180) | about a year ago | (#42469415)

A Beowolf clusted of these! :)

Paul B.

Symbol of excess ?? (1, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#42469549)

Supercomputer is a tool.

Like any other kind of tool, if used correctly, a supercomputer can be very beneficial, and can generate a lot of profit and/or prestige for its owner.

But of course, like any other kind of tool, if a supercomputer is ***NOT*** used correctly, it'll become a burden, a waste of money, an eyesore.

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42469751)

and supercomputers often require recoding of the 'app' so that it runs better and uses the hardware better.

when I was at SGI (and cray was still part of them) I got some time on a cray machine to run some code that I was usually running on indys and octanes. I expected a HUGE increase in speed but I saw only about 2x. my app was not broken down to be cray-friendly and so I never got any real speed out of it.

unless you go to lengths to use the SC in 'its preferred way' its a wasted and expensive resource.

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (3, Interesting)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about a year ago | (#42469935)

My experience is it would be better to provision a cluster of EC2 boxes to run the task than build a purpose-built super computer (with some exception). One disadvantage of clustered machines is longer communication latency, so tasks that require lots of process to process communication will run slower. Many problems can be tweaked with search spaces sliced so that this latency is not a big deal.

A governor who thinks that spending $20m on this will bring more businesses to his state in the world of the internet just built his super-computer to nowhere.

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (4, Informative)

scheme (19778) | about a year ago | (#42470641)

My experience is it would be better to provision a cluster of EC2 boxes to run the task than build a purpose-built super computer (with some exception). One disadvantage of clustered machines is longer communication latency, so tasks that require lots of process to process communication will run slower. Many problems can be tweaked with search spaces sliced so that this latency is not a big deal.

There are huge classes of problems were you can't tweak things like this. Basically any simulation where things are large distances interact or where there is a lot of communication can't really be shoved into a cluster. For example, computation fluid dynamics (e.g. anything looking at air or water moving over surfaces), weather simulations, molecular dynamics, simulating gravity, etc. All of these types of problems will run like crap if you try to use EC2 instances for them.

Also, have you really priced out what computation and data storage on EC2 costs? There's a few studies that show that EC2 on-demand instance will cost you 2-3 times more than purchasing a comparable server even with power, cooling, and maintenance/administration factored in. See, this [indico.cern.ch] or this [google.com] for example. EC2 is great if you want to explore certain problems and need to temporarily scale up or want the ability to scale up on demand but if you have a base level of work that you'll be doing all the time, it's much more efficient to buy your own hardware. That is doubly true if your problems need any significant amount of storage space.

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about a year ago | (#42471791)

You raise an excellent point (both the classes of problems and the costs). If you keep things busy, it's cheaper to own it yourself. It's hard to keep machine usage that high (not to say NOAA or others aren't doing that).

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#42470923)

Between you and the bitcoin guy getting the only 5 point posts in here, I have to say that yours is the dumber of the two responses.

You obviously don't know what supercomputers do and what is "trivially parallel" (what you can do in ordinary clusters) and what you need an actual supercomputer for. And neither do you care, and that's the saddest part of all this.

--
BMO

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471763)

Been there, done that actually.

Re:Symbol of excess ?? (3, Informative)

Macman408 (1308925) | about a year ago | (#42472267)

I think another problem is that there's probably not much reason for a business to be physically located close to a supercomputer. It would be just as easy to use it from out of the state, with the added benefit that your business can be located somewhere with a larger talent pool. Without that draw, there's not much reason for the state to sponsor such a project, since there's not likely to be a net positive gain for the taxpayers. For a country, it makes more sense to invest in a supercomputer, as there are higher barriers to people and data moving across international boundaries than across state borders. Of course, countries also generally have more use for supercomputers themselves.

Also, from looking at the stats, it's not a terribly efficient machine. It's currently at #185 on the Top500 list (not bad, for being fairly old), but it burns 861 kW. Only 286 of the Top500 systems list their power, and of those it comes in at #271 in terms of efficiency, or #241 in total power. So it's in the 63rd percentile speed-wise, but the 5th percentile in terms of efficiency. This is largely related to its age; the top 84 of 286 systems were all built in 2011 or 2012. I could imagine that having such a low efficiency makes it quite a bit harder to turn a profit. Especially when the most efficient machines on the list (including the fastest machine in the world) use 14-16 times less power for the same performance level.

This woman is a fool (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469437)

Susana Martinez, does not understand computer science or what it takes to solve real problems. Just by her very statement she shows her ignorance and can therefore eat a big huge bag of dicks before she talks about what "excess" is.

Damn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469457)

A supercomputer that was the third-fastest machine in the world in 2008 has been repossessed by the state of New Mexico

Those Mexicans are cunning.

Re:Damn (1, Funny)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#42469721)

Eh?

Re:Damn (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42470061)

Is "Those new Mexicans are cunning." more accurate?

Re:Damn (1)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#42470899)

Probably, but it still doesn't make much sense.

Re:Damn (3, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42471197)

Probably, but it still doesn't make much sense.

C'mon, it's /. , what do you expect?

Nerds need to be exact, not necessarily to make sense... (otherwise they wouldn't be different enough from non-nerds to justify a distinctive term)

Oh, boy! (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#42469461)

2008 technology. Seems more like three universities are getting stuck with it than anything else. The parts will be 5 years old by the time everything is divided up and distributed. That's fine if you're redistributing old desktops to set up a lab for kids to type up term papers or something but supercomputers are supposed to be cutting edge. Maybe they can use it for a computer history class. "This is how we built supercomputers back in the day."

Re:Oh, boy! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469595)

I suspect that you can still upgrade those SGI Altix boxes with the newest Itanium CPUs, so i think once can still squeeze respectable performance out of them. Additionally, they are not clusters but large single Image systems, i.e. only one instance of Linux runs with 1024 or 2048 CPUs, so the resulting system may be more suitable for some tasks than a cluster of "normal" PCs.

Re:Oh, boy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469777)

Oh my god, finally a use for all the MPI code that i have.

Re:Oh, boy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42473363)

Yeah. Except its not an SGI Altix, but an SGI Altix ICE - a Xeon Cluster.

Re:Oh, boy! (3, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year ago | (#42469599)

Useful for educational purposes. You give people a chance to execute code on an actual distributed cluster setup without taking away CPU time from actual projects, and it's still going to be a lot more powerful than most people have access to.

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

cnettel (836611) | about a year ago | (#42469695)

You still need fair power and cooling facilities to make any use of them, as well as some sysadmin staff to set up and maintain the queuing system. If an outdated cluster was kept intact, you could possibly benefit from already solving the utilities and system setup issue, but if they are dividing it into pieces, those benefits are also lost.

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#42470089)

not really. There is already a project to make a 1024 processor RasberryPi "supercomputer" that will give mepople the ability to do "supercomputing" at an affordable level.

This thing is a waste of money now to do anything but grind it up for it's metals. its already 5 years out of date and it's processing power per Kw used is so high it's useless to most universities.

Re:Oh, boy! (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42470433)

clustering rasp pi's?

why? they have NO io that is worth a damn. and its all about io since you NEED fast and low-latency to make a cluster really worth it.

"when all you have is a Pi, everything looks like a slashdot article"

Re:Oh, boy! (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471009)

Actually, for learning how to do good supercomputer programming it might be quite viable. After all most beginner code is horribly inefficient, and most beginner projects are quite small. On anything resembling a "real" supercomputer even the most inefficient code will still finish within seconds - whereas on slow hardware with poor I/O a poorly coded implementation may take many minutes or even hours versus the seconds needed for a well-written program to do the same task. Technically speaking the difference between .1 seconds and 10 seconds is just as informative as the difference between 10 seconds and 17 minutes, but the latter carries far more psychological weight.

Besides which - how many entry-level tasks can you think of that could actually make use of even a few dozen clustered "real" systems, much less a thousand? Hands-on experience in how to effectively partition a task between numerous nodes shouldn't be underestimated, and it's a rare university that's going to want to turn beginning programmers loose on their big iron, other departments want to use it for real research. A $30-50k cluster on the other hand might be just what the CS department ordered.

Re:Oh, boy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471665)

How about we grind up your post for the extra apostrophes? You have a lot of opinions for someone who can't even grasp the apostrophe...

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42469947)

Useful for calculations? no... useful for learning how to use and program for super computers? Definitely.

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year ago | (#42471077)

New Mexico also has a yearly supercomputer challenge for kids in elementary school through high school. Having more systems available for the kids will make thing easier.

Re:Oh, boy! (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471105)

Actually even for doing calculations it may be useful. Keep in mind than NM is the poorest state in the union - only the wealthiest universities have any sort of big iron at all. I used to manage the "supercomputer" for a mid-sized NM university, among other duties - I was the only professional IT guy for the CS department, and the cluster consisted of half a rack of dual-core servers. Even at that the chemistry department were the only ones to ever tax it for any length of time, and their simulations were mostly large batches of single-threaded simulations for which the cluster was simply the most convenient place to run them.

Re:Oh, boy! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42470081)

That's fine if you're redistributing old desktops to set up a lab for kids to type up term papers or something but supercomputers are supposed to be cutting edge.

And... why don't you trust them to break the supercomputer in such way that the pieces will all have cutting edges?

You fail it (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about a year ago | (#42470321)

Alright so this thing won't place on the Top 500 list but that's not the point. Its a real supercomputer and an ideal learning environment for distributed computing. No a room full of desktops and gigabit ethernet is not the same thing.

Re:You fail it (2)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#42470621)

Alright so this thing won't place on the Top 500 list but that's not the point. Its a real supercomputer and an ideal learning environment for distributed computing. No a room full of desktops and gigabit ethernet is not the same thing.

On the other hand that's pretty much how Google got started.

Symbol of "retarded governor" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469475)

As a citizen of New Mexico, Susana Martinez is probably the dumbest and most shortsighted politician I've ever seen in office. She makes George W. Bush look like Albert W. Einstein.

I know that's off-topic, but Goddamn is that woman stupid. I just had to say something.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#42469537)

I'll play along and say you are right for the sake of argument. But if a 20 mill project approaches or goes over budget with little to show for it along the process, why keep throwing money at it when there are plenty of other super computers to purchase a time-slice from?!

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469741)

Oh, no, I wasn't talking about this issue specifically.

I was just pointing out that she's a horrible governor and dumber than a bag of sand. I have nothing against cutting off a program that's way over budget and doesn't have anything to show for it.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470441)

So basically she does something you think is a good thing, and her reward is getting slammed as a dummy. Got it.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470731)

Even a broken, stupid clock is right twice a day.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469843)

I'll play along and say that there's a difference between a failed project and calling a 20 million project that had a clear goal and failed to meet it a "sign of excess". Million dollar bonuses are signs of excess, not projects that have real potential uses.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470955)

I hope you don't leave $20m sitting on your dining room table waiting for a "potential use".
If a business spends money on equipment, they better damn well start seeing an immediate return on investment.
This is partly why all governments suck.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471827)

No, that's why all businesses run in your backwards understanding of business resemble HP, wouldn't you just love to be a stakeholder of HP right now? I bet their shareholders, employees and clients are thrilled with the great direction HP is going by killing anything that isn't profitable at this very moment.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | about a year ago | (#42471143)

I'll play along and say you are right for the sake of argument. But if a 20 mill project approaches or goes over budget with little to show for it along the process, why keep throwing money at it when there are plenty of other super computers to purchase a time-slice from?!

All they needed in one word.... BITCOIN MINING... Ok two words.. All they needed in two words...

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (-1, Flamebait)

Q-Hack! (37846) | about a year ago | (#42469553)

Susana Martinez has been cleaning up the corruption that was the Bill Richardson legacy. Hardly what I would call shortsighted or dumb. My guess is that she cut some entitlement program that you were sucking at the teat of.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469819)

Susana Martinez' biggest political issue is her push for denying drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants.

Brilliant!

Surely that will stop them from driving and will make our streets safer.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470823)

I live in New Mexico, I am not a fan of Martinez, so I'm not trying to deny that she's not a terrible governor. But the push to deny drivers' licenses to immigrants is because the Real ID act Bush signed into 2005 clashes with NM law that illegals can get licenses. We've been able to push back these requirements year after year, but if we don't clean up our act soon, the DHS might not let us extend anymore, and we'd have to use passports to fly, even within the US. The drivers license would also not be identification enough to gain access to federal buildings such as Sandia Labs.

But on the topic of "retarded governor", Richardson put a lot of things in motion, such as the Rail Runner. There were some that panned out, some that didn't. I don't think that's a bad thing at all. I think he did a lot better than Martinez is doing.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42472845)

In that case, just make it so illegal immigrants' licenses don't count as identification.

But she really should understand that denying them licenses does not mean they won't be driving. It just means that they won't be licensed to drive. You can say that they're breaking the law just by being here, and yes, that's true, but using that as an excuse to then try to create new circumstances in which they're violating the law is not justifiable. There's a difference between being somewhere illegally because you're trying to increase the quality of life for your family and between actively violating laws because you're just some degenerate who doesn't give a shit about other people. If an illegal immigrant wants to prove they are reasonably safe drivers, that seems like a good thing to me.

For someone in the position she's in, Susana Martinez seems to lack a lot of really basic reasoning skills. Ever since she first ran for office, a lot of the policies she's pushed have been things that it took me less than five seconds to figure a way around. Having her as governor is really scary, because I really do get the impression that she's not very smart. She says a lot of things which seem great on the surface, but which fall apart quickly if you think about them for very long.

And in case anyone's wondering, no, it's not a racist thing or a sexist thing. I grew up around hispanic people, in the same neighborhoods, eating the same foods, having the same basic customs. I've been in New Mexico for decades, and wouldn't have remained here if I had something against hispanic people. And I've voted for female candidates before. It's just her. She's not smart enough to be governor, and it really bothers me when the news media have stories and they go to her office to get a comment, because I can never remember her saying anything that I considered insightful or which seemed to come from serious consideration. She seems sure about everything and wrong about almost everything. And like I said, that's scary.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42473181)

What legal tools would you prefer to see used to handle illegal immigrants, if any?

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (4, Informative)

mikael (484) | about a year ago | (#42470717)

It's not going to be entirely broken up and sold as scrap. As the system is superscalar, the universities and mining institutes want to split the system into three blocks : UNM wants 10 racks, New Mexico State University want 4 racks, and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology would take 2 racks. They are each going to have their own physical campus space and energy consumption budgets, so no one could afford the entire system.

Look at the statistics of the system:

Type of system: SGI Altix ICE 8200 cluster
Number of racks: 28
Number of processor cores per rack: 500
Total number of cores: 14000
Processing power: 172 Trillion calculations per second
Power consumption 32 Kilowatts per cabinet (not sure if racks == cabinets, but that would mean 896 Kilowatts/hour if it were the case)

Normally, when someone requests time on a supercomputer, they put forward a funding bid, get some grant money which pays for fixed amount of time and number of cores. The administration of the system, then book in the time and schedule it with the other tasks running. If there are just a few regular customers and they each have a fixed amount of funding, then it's going to be cheaper for each of them to have their own portion of the system.

I'd imagine Intel and SGI thought they could work together to build this system, house it somewhere locally, and lease it out to whoever needed it, and gain experience with parallel processing as well as make a healthy profit, slowly gaining number of customers. Prospective customers probably freaked out at the cost of doing their processing on an external system that wasn't under their control versus running on desktop PC's with Kepler/CUDA/OpenCL systems.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471193)

Don't forget as well that research-oriented simulations are likely to be at least brushing up against real cutting-edge science and/or technology, and the researchers will be loath to run their simulations on hardware outside their control. After all if they come up with something big what's to stop some IBM lackey from making a copy of their results and selling it to the highest bidder? At least their grad students have a little skin in the game. Is it mostly an ego trip? Probably. But ego trips comprise a major share of university professor compensation packages, so that's to be expected.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about a year ago | (#42471691)

The "New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology" should not be called a "mining institute". It's really New Mexico Tech: a small college with a strong emphasis on the STEM fields.

Re:Symbol of "retarded governor" (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471221)

Isn't she also the one who was bought by Texas corporate interests? Or am I thinking of someone else?

(long-time NM citizen. Wasn't interested in politics then, even less interested now, but I still hear some of the most egregious stories.)

Fail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469479)

Susana uses an iPhone.

So in an example of govt efficiency... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469505)

The outdated ram will be removed and sent to one university...

Does either major political party approve of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469525)

Whether you're liberal or conservative, does anyone really believe that the government spending tax dollars on expensive speculative investments makes sense?

Re:Does either major political party approve of th (1)

tempest69 (572798) | about a year ago | (#42469557)

Um.. it worked in Wyoming, millions into a supercomputer to attract more tech companies.

Re:Does either major political party approve of th (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about a year ago | (#42469877)

Like NASA or DARPA?

Re:Does either major political party approve of th (2)

NemosomeN (670035) | about a year ago | (#42470473)

Yes. The government is the perfect candidate for extremely high risk, high reward investments. No other organization has enough capital to diversify that kind of risk away and reap the rewards.

Re:Does either major political party approve of th (3, Insightful)

scheme (19778) | about a year ago | (#42470673)

Whether you're liberal or conservative, does anyone really believe that the government spending tax dollars on expensive speculative investments makes sense?

You mean like basic research on things that may not be realizable for a decade or two? What's your feeling on the internet which grew out of research on networking in the 70s and 80s. What about the funding for ultrafast networking that's happening now? What about things like the tevatron and LHC which resulted in things like MRIs being made feasible?

Personally, I'm all for it.

Re:Does either major political party approve of th (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#42473455)

Whether you're liberal or conservative, does anyone really believe that the government spending tax dollars on expensive speculative investments makes sense?

Considering the long term scientific, economic and social payoff we Aussies get from an organization such as CSIRO, I'd say it makes a huge amount of sense. Such organisations exist in the US, NOAA and NASA come to mind, and then there are the international organizations funded by taxpayers such as the LHC. As for it being speculative, scientists have a saying; "If I knew what I was doing, it wouldn't be called research".

What makes no sense to me is short changing science in a technological world and expecting a government to have the motivations and goals of a large corporation.

Fools! (5, Funny)

kurt555gs (309278) | about a year ago | (#42469531)

Think of how many Bitcoins this thing could make. Someone should tell New Mexico.

Re:Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469623)

not a whole lot, butterfly labs are introducing ASIC's, assuming all of what they have produced goes online, the hashrate will increase 30 times.

Re:Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469691)

About 22.3btc / day, or about $300. Certainly not enough to keep the lights on.

Re:Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470249)

Well turn the lights off and leave the computer on!

Re:Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470583)

Aren't GPUs the efficient way to farm BitCoins? Super computers just aren't built for it...

Plus, everyone knows that is what botnets are for.

Re:Fools! (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471259)

Depends on the supercomputer. In fact one technique for budget supercomputers is to load down each node with a half-dozen or more GPUs. It all comes down to the nature of the tasks it's designed to solve - GPUs are actually among the cheapest processors available, *IF* they're suited to the primary problem domain.

second hand computers are worth nothing ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469535)

I guess she didn't get the PC industries secret yet no ?

When you buy a computer it is more or less worthless , go check ebay and see perfectly good working order 3 year old (and less) branded equipment that cost someone originally millions going for fractions of a penny on the dollar.

Re:second hand computers are worth nothing ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470601)

I am still holding out for my first PC purchase. It just loses value so quickly. Oh, and I take the bus...

Shared computing for business? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469543)

What type of business would need the use of a supercomputer but not often enough to buy/build their own? And what happens when the state decides to modify/sell/deny access to the thing and your company is left with code which is heavily optimized for this particular machine which won't run on anything else?
How did this ever make sense to anyone?

Re:Shared computing for business? (1)

cnettel (836611) | about a year ago | (#42469709)

Well, if you want that kind of resource, Amazon is very happy to sell it to you these days. In 2008, it was still a novel concept. Assuming that a government project should be able to spearhead such a development, especially with a huge one-time investment in hardware, that's the real stupidity.

Re:Shared computing for business? (1)

scheme (19778) | about a year ago | (#42470751)

Well, if you want that kind of resource, Amazon is very happy to sell it to you these days. In 2008, it was still a novel concept. Assuming that a government project should be able to spearhead such a development, especially with a huge one-time investment in hardware, that's the real stupidity.

What???? Amazon EC2 instances aren't comparable because they have much more latency for internode communications. In any case, if you have a decent workload, EC2 is really expensive. Using 2 large instances for compute nodes and using 50TB of storage will cost you about $7500 a month. Amazon's calculator gives an estimate of $30k a month for a HPC cluster. At that pricing, you can easily buy comparable equipment and come out ahead even with power, maintenance, and people if you're using it regularly. EC2 only makes sense if you need this sort of computational power for a week or so every few months.

Re:Shared computing for business? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470845)

Target business would have been academic researchers, oil/gas and telecoms companies. They have the intractable problems. The supercomputer staff would have the code optimization experience. EPCC does this.

It was onsite at an Intel campus, and built from an SGI Altix cluster along with a national network. It would have made sense to Intel - "hey, let's build this supercomputer, get some state funding, we'll lease it out to people who can't afford to maintain their own system, have our own programmers to work with them on doing research".

Central planning fail, again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469587)

Not a symbol of excess. It's a symbol of how the government cannot and should not try to identify (and fund) particular technologies (see: Solyndra). Let the market determine the market. Central planning hasn't worked for anyone. Jeeeez.

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470289)

Central planning hasn't worked for anyone. Jeeeez.

Shhh! Don't tell anyone on here that, they still haven't caught on.

Re:Central planning fail, again (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42471385)

You're absolutely right. The integrated circuit (NASA), the internet(DARPA), interstate highways, public utilities, etc. have never contributed to economic growth or social development.

Admittedly "planned economies" don't have a great track record, but then again I can't offhand think of any examples not controlled by short-sighted despotic governments, so that's not necessarily much of an attack against the concept. Targeted investment and development on the other hand has no shortage of success stories to justify its use. Governments after all are one of the very few institutions with the resources and vision to gamble on long-term, high-yield projects. It doesn't matter if 9 out of 10 of the projects are a complete waste - as long as the 10th yields at least a 10-fold return on investment it's an unmitigated victory. *Very* few corporations have any interest in gambling like that on long-term projects though - especially these days when virtually no-one looks past the next quarterly report and their fat year-end bonuses.

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471703)

The integrated circuit had nothing to do with NASA. Geez, can we stop that myth please? And as for planned economies... You mean like the one that beat the Us to orbit, the first satellite, the first man to orbit, the first woman, the first space docking, the first automated Moon sample return, etc.. Yeah, they can't seem to get anything right.

Re:Central planning fail, again (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42472249)

Yeah, they were maintaining a respectable lead in the space race, right up until their entire country came apart at the seams. I don't claim any inherent weakness in planned economies, in fact they have some very clear advantages (China's current economic revolution is evidence enough of that), just that in examples to date they tend to be operated by the few, for the benefit of the few, which tends to be an unstable situation. I'm actually quite hopeful that China will fair better - they seem to have learned from Russia's excesses and the demand of their own proletariat for Western luxuries, and seem to be moving in a direction that will eventually give their citizens rights and freedoms comparable to those enjoyed in the West.

As for ICs, everything I've heard indicates that critical developmental funding came through NASA, who needed lightweight computers that could survive the stresses of launch. That's not to say that they wouldn't have been developed anyway, but nobody else had a pressing need for their advantages so development may have been delayed by decades. Can you offer citations to the contrary? I would certainly be interested to hear them.

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42473343)

I don't claim any inherent weakness in planned economies,

The von Mises problem of economic calculation is an inherent weakness in all planned economies. As it's absolutely unsolvable it's inevitable that all centrally planned economies will go the way of mother URSS ... and there still are idiots who think socialism/communism can work .... that's depressing

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42472605)

You're absolutely right. The integrated circuit (NASA), the internet(DARPA), interstate highways, public utilities, etc. have never contributed to economic growth or social development.

Admittedly "planned economies" don't have a great track record, but then again I can't offhand think of any examples not controlled by short-sighted despotic governments, so that's not necessarily much of an attack against the concept. Targeted investment and development on the other hand has no shortage of success stories to justify its use. Governments after all are one of the very few institutions with the resources and vision to gamble on long-term, high-yield projects. It doesn't matter if 9 out of 10 of the projects are a complete waste - as long as the 10th yields at least a 10-fold return on investment it's an unmitigated victory. *Very* few corporations have any interest in gambling like that on long-term projects though - especially these days when virtually no-one looks past the next quarterly report and their fat year-end bonuses.

You're completely ignoring what would have occurred in the market on its own had the government not soaked up the resources and decided where to allocate them. It's true that I cannot know for sure what would have happened, but history has shown that free markets outperform centrally planned markets.

Re:Central planning fail, again (1)

markass530 (870112) | about a year ago | (#42471399)

well. except for that whole internet thing everyone's always talking about

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42472621)

well. except for that whole internet thing everyone's always talking about

Like the others you're completely ignoring what would have occurred in the market on its own had the government not soaked up the resources and decided where to allocate them. It's true that I cannot know for sure what would have happened, but history has shown that free markets outperform centrally planned markets.

Re:Central planning fail, again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471753)

Stalin won a war with it, that doesn't mean he wasn't a fucker, but it worked all the same.

Monsanto Cucumbers Cause Genital Baldnes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469591)

Monsanto Cucumbers Cause Genital Baldness -- Immediately Banned in Nova Scotia

A six-month study by AgriSearch, an on-campus research arm of Dalhousie University, has shown that genetically modified (GM) cucumbers grown under license to Monsanto Inc. result in serious side effects including total groin hair loss and chafing in "sensitive areas", leading to the immediate and total ban of sales of all that company's crop and subsequent dill pickles.
The tracking study of 643 men and women in Nova Scotia came about after reports began to surface about bald field mice and the bald feral cats that ate them being discovered by farmers on acreages growing the new crop.
"The bald wild animals raised a huge flag and we immediately obtained subpoenas for the medical records of all 600 plus adults who took part in focus groups and taste tests of the cucumbers by Monsanto in Canada," said Dr. Nancy Walker, Director of Public Health Research at Dalhousie. "Fully 3/4 of the people who ate these cukes had their crotch area hair fall out. This is not a joking matter at all...these people now have hairless heinies."
Nova Scotia became the first province or state in North America to ban a Monsanto GM food product, although GM corn and other food crops are currently outlawed in Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece and Hungary. Governments in Australia, Spain, UK, France, Turkey, India and Mexico have public petitions or legislative bills under consideration. Californians recently voted down a bill that would have required all GM foods to be clearly labeled. Monsanto cucumbers have been ordered removed from all food stores in Nova Scotia, while Quebec stores have begun a voluntary removal, partially because the UPC code stickers contain some English.
"I pulled down my boxer shorts to get ready for bed one night and there it was...a pile of hair that looked like a chihuahua puppy," said Eric LaMaze, who was paid $50 by Monsanto to compare the tastes of natural cucumbers to Monsanto GM cucumbers in March of this year in Halifax. "Then I saw my bits and whoa they were like all shiny skin. Bald."
Mr. LaMaze and other taste test participants said the GM cucumbers tasted the same as the naturally grown cucumbers but made a slight "fizzing noise" when swallowed. The participants also complained of raw skin in their genital area and some bed wetting.
Monsanto Inc., a self-described Sustainable Agriculture Company based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, where they share offices with major shareholder Bain Capital, issued a statement saying, "Next generation fruits and vegetables, including VO5 cucumbers, are safe for human consumption with some potential minor side effects. Some fine-tuning is underway."
McDonald's Corp. issued a statement following the Nova Scotia ban announcing that they will replace dill and sweet cucumber pickles on their burgers with non-GM pickled zucchini as a precaution until it is proven that no Monsanto pickles were sold into the North American market. McDonald's website contains a bulletin to that effect and includes a revised hip-hop Big Mac jingle that now sings, "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickled zuke, onions on a sesame seed bun."
Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq said a Canada-wide recall and ban will be issued within 24 hours. "The Government of Canada takes this very, very seriously," said the Minister. "Being hairless down there should be a matter of personal choice for Canadian men and women and not one taken away by a cucumber."
"They used to have the real cucumber slices in those salad things at the City Hall Dining Club," sighed Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on the courthouse steps after being impeached by a Provincial Judge. "Those were good times..."
Robin Steel

Re:Monsanto Cucumbers Cause Genital Baldnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470205)

As a fan of shaved pussy, what's the downside?

Re:Monsanto Cucumbers Cause Genital Baldnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42470467)

Not enough static cling?

Re:Monsanto Cucumbers Cause Genital Baldnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42472069)

Your cat develops worse skin issues?

But let me guess... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469643)

Private "sapce flight" is all wonderful and very important for the species?

Third fastest in 2008, huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469681)

So I guess that makes it almost as powerful as my iPad mini.... lol

Re:Third fastest in 2008, huh? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year ago | (#42471453)

So I guess that makes it almost as powerful as my iPad mini.... lol

It would whip the cobbler out of your Apple.

Just 20Million USD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42469717)

The Buffalo Bills http://www.buffalobills.com/ should buy the remaining racks and use it. Ideal location for reduced cooling costs. http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/01/02/2120217/buffalo-bills-going-the-moneyball-route-with-analytics?utm_source=slashdot&utm_medium=twitter

Parallelism obsoleted the supercomputer (2)

virtigex (323685) | about a year ago | (#42470265)

There are not many problems these days that cannot be parallelized and split up to be run on a large number of off the shelf hardware. It is much easier to grow a Beowulf Cluster to add performance than redesigning to eke out every bit of capability of top-of-the-line hardware. Much easier also, to redesign your problem so that it can take advantage of parallelism. I agree that this was probably a boondoggle by a politician wanting to get some publicity for himself.

Re:Parallelism obsoleted the supercomputer (4, Informative)

scheme (19778) | about a year ago | (#42470805)

There are not many problems these days that cannot be parallelized and split up to be run on a large number of off the shelf hardware. It is much easier to grow a Beowulf Cluster to add performance than redesigning to eke out every bit of capability of top-of-the-line hardware. Much easier also, to redesign your problem so that it can take advantage of parallelism. I agree that this was probably a boondoggle by a politician wanting to get some publicity for himself.

You're mistaken. There's a large class of problems that are pleasantly parallel and can be split up like you say (e.g. einstein@home or seti@home type problems). However, any problem that requires a lot of internode communication such as computation fluid dynamics, gravity simulations, weather or climate simulations/forecasting, combustion/flame problems (e.g. modeling engines), molecular dynamics will require a system like this. A beowulf cluster using ethernet to connect nodes together will result in most of the cpus waiting for information from neighboring nodes to be sent to it so that it can go through an iteration. A lot of the cost in a system like this comes from having a very low latency, high speed network connections. Ideally, you'd want to have every cpu connected to every other cpu, but that is impossible so you end up trying to maximize the number of connections and bandwidth while minimizing the collisions with other cpu-cpu communications for a given amount of money. It's not cheap by any means.

I say they set up a charity for public access comp (1)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year ago | (#42470591)

I think they should set up a not-for-profit foundation, like sdf to maintain and administer the box, and open it up to public access via ssh like SDF.

Re:I say they set up a charity for public access c (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year ago | (#42471057)

Face it you got a bunch of dopey Republicans who would rather take a political shot at the previous Democrats rather than do anything useful with the supercomputer. Anyone with half a brain would simply rent out access at negotiated rates to those three university rather put it out of commission. Of course the whole scam will be to sell it as cheap as possible, spend as much as possible on breaking it up and then blame everything on democrats in the next election cycle.

Re:I say they set up a charity for public access c (3, Interesting)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year ago | (#42471125)

It was a non-profit organization that was running this and they owed money to sgi for maintenance.

Welcome to the new America (4, Funny)

fufufang (2603203) | about a year ago | (#42470681)

Where science and engineering is considered as excess,but litigation/lawsuit are considered as normal.

so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471063)

Why sell it for parts when the universities can pool their resources and share it between them where it stands?

ovo -hoot

Not even worth splitting up (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471079)

This is a very old machine. It was a piece of crap the day it was turned on and never got better. It isn't worth the electricity and cooling even when broken up. For the money it will take to dismantle, move, re-install, power, and cool individual racks you could get something smaller, less power hungry, brand new and in support for half the money.

The whole thing needs to get scrapped. What the state has actually done here is find a way to avoid paying to have it scrapped by "gifting" it to the universities who will discover the above facts after much time and money are already spent and end up having to pay to scrap it themselves.

It's actually clever (or sneaky/slimy) way to unload a lemon. "Hey here's a car I don't use anymore. Practically new. You tow it and do the 12k in repairs and it's all yours for *free*!"

Government "investment" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471209)

Yet another boondoggle debunking government "investment" (i.e. spending).

XD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42471511)

Rich !

$20 million of NM State Funds .... Gone.

Fmr. Gov. Bill Richardson ... off with his homosexual friend Eric Schmidt to ... NORTH KOREA.

Mr. President. Issue a KILL order on Misters Richardson and Schmidt, please.

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