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Cray CTO: Linux clusters don't play in HPC

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the you'd-think-he-should-know dept.

Linux 435

jagger writes "Linux clustering was touted as the next big thing by many vendors last week at ClusterWorld Conference & Expo 2004. But supercomputer vendor Cray Inc. scoffed at the notion of putting Linux clusters in the high-performance computing (HPC) category. "Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer," said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada."

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Marketing (5, Insightful)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848731)

While Paul Terry makes some good points, in his statements, including the partial quote from the post, "Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada. "At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

Remember to take this with a grain of salt. The inflammatory nature of the comment is nothing more than a marketing ploy to increase visibility of, and sell, the new Cray XD1

Re:Marketing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848744)

Why don't you just bend over and take it in the ass, fag?

Re:Marketing (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848807)

While Paul Terry makes some good points, in his statements, including the partial quote from the post, "Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada. "At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

Remember to take this with a grain of salt. The inflammatory nature of the comment is nothing more than a marketing ploy to increase visibility of, and sell, the new Cray XD1

Re:Marketing (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848867)

That's also glossing over the fact that low-end systems are cheap, linux is free, and clustering is trivial. He's just making noise for the sake of it.

Re:Marketing (5, Funny)

Total_Wimp (564548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848941)

"At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

I'm sure Paul Terry is nothing more han a loose collection fo unmanaged, individual human cells too. But I'm sure, with hard work and love, he can become a _real_ boy! Lets all have a hug.

Help me here... (2, Insightful)

ScottGant (642590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848990)

I'm a layman...I have no idea what I talk about, but of course that doesn't stop me.

I know I keep coming back to Virginia Tech, but isn't all those G5's linked together to make the 3rd fastest supercomputer itself a cluster? Or is it considered something else?

And if it IS considered a cluster, then why wouldn't a Linux based (along with the *BSD based G5s) be able to make a fast supercomputer?

If so, then what Paul Terry is spouting is just FUD and marketing to help sell his product, yes?

Just wondering.

Yeah, but imagine... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848740)

...a Beowulf... cluster... thingy... doesn't that count?

Ass, Titties, Ass and Titties (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848743)

Hey bitches.

Seymour Cray (5, Funny)

Jargon Scott (258797) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848751)

A quote I've seen before:

"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"

Maybe he meant penguins?

Re:Seymour Cray (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848823)

Two strong Oxen, obviously. What does this have to do with computers?

Re:Seymour Cray (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848846)

You could just as well ask though

"If you were building an ants nest, which would you rather use? 1024 Ants or a Bulldozer?"

Perhaps he shouldn't be comparing plowing fields to high performance computing.

Re:Seymour Cray (4, Funny)

theatre_freak (548212) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848847)

Would that be a kilochicken?

Re:Seymour Cray (0)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849020)

No - it's a kilocluck...

Re:Seymour Cray (0)

Russ Steffen (263) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849031)

No, it's a kibichicken.

Re:Seymour Cray (4, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848854)

The analogy USED to be valid, however the times have changed as microprocessors are now much more powerful.

The analogy now would be more like:

Which would you rather use to plow a field - one big tractor or a 1024 little tractors.


Re:Seymour Cray (3, Insightful)

xdroop (4039) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849027)

Use the right tool for the job.

If you are plowing fields, use the bull.

If you are making eggs, use the chickens.

This isn't a one-size-fits-all world any more. Only those deluded enough to think that Windows should be the world's standard desktop think otherwise.

Re:Seymour Cray (4, Funny)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848868)

Chickens, for the same reasons that you would use 1024 Linux boxen instead of his Cray.

And when you're done plowing, you can fry 'em up all tasty.

Re:Seymour Cray (4, Funny)

turgid (580780) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848870)

"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"

Personally, I'd prefer a John Deere 6003 Series [deere.com] .

Re:Seymour Cray (2, Insightful)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848966)

How about a real tractor? Like an International. [leblancauction.com]

Re:Seymour Cray (4, Funny)

kitzilla (266382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848942)

"If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?" How big are the chickens?

Re:Seymour Cray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848954)

Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?

European or African chickens?

Re:Seymour Cray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849013)

Never underestimate the power of 100 attack trained chiuauas.... like pirana.... hee hee

Yes but answer the question! (1)

drizst 'n drat (725458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849016)

The correct answer is "Two strong oxen." Have you ever seen 1024 chickens plow a field? It's absurd. And so is the analogy. You use what is appropriate for the job at hand.

Re:Seymour Cray (2, Insightful)

rthille (8526) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849030)

That's funny, but since plowing a field is very parallelizable it doesn't make a very good analogy. Especially since in that analogy the Cray isn't two strong oxen, it's more like a machine that can plow all/many of the rows at once, and the linux cluster is a machine that can plow one row at a time, but you can afford to buy a bunch and plow as many at a time as you have $$s to spend.

Well.. (0, Insightful)

sogoodsofarsowhat (662830) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848753)

How could Cray be wrong. I mean just becuase linuxis running some of the top 500 computers there is no reason to consider HPC right. What a self serving statement Cray makes....they still dont get it .... there way is a dead-end...

Where's Grammar Nazi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848812)

Just to mention, when pointing out an object: 'There is a dead-end', is fine. However, 'their way is a dead end', is probably what you are striving for.

Re:Where's Grammar Nazi? (0, Offtopic)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848903)

is probably what you are striving for.

My goodness, it is you who need the nazi.

Business or science? (2, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848756)


Dr. Terry's assertions remind me of a Seymour Cray quote I had as my /. sig a while back:
"If you were plowing a field, which
would you rather use? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"

I'm not picking a side, it just seems interesting that the Cray CTO would echo Seymour's thoughts. I guess it's for business and marketting reasons though, sadly.

Re:Business or science? (1)

Alapan (600026) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848808)

But if the 1024 chickens do it at a lower cost and at a faster speed, why would he bother with 2 oxen?

Re:Business or science? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848848)

Not all problems are solvable by the "divide and conquer" approach. That's where you need the heavy iron of a supercomputer.

Re:Business or science? (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849051)

But if the 1024 chickens do it at a lower cost and at a faster speed, why would he bother with 2 oxen?

I think you didn't read his post in entirety.

Re:Business or science? (2, Funny)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848944)

Even though the chickens might be 80% more efficient, there are other considerations: Can you imagine the ridicule you'd get when you went into town?

"Here he comes, get ready boys! Cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck, here chickey chikcey, Haw Haw Haw!", etc.

BTM

Re:Business or science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849050)

I would pick the 1024 chickens absolutely. With the two oxen, if one keels over dead, you are left in the lurch until you can find a new, expensive, ox to take its place. With the chickens, you can go to any farmer in the area and borrow a couple and swap them in no problem. Seymour's failure to understand the appeal of those 1024 chickens is exactly why the company with his name now has to rely on idiotic statements to market itself.

CTO of Cray? (2, Interesting)

shachart (471014) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848775)

You did notice he is the CTO of Cray... Canada??

Re:CTO of Cray? (1)

KevinKnSC (744603) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848960)

You did notice he is the CTO of Cray... Canada??

Does that mean the full quote was: "Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, eh"?

Todays headlines... (4, Funny)

stevens (84346) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848776)

Company officer claims competitor isn't as good as his product. Film at 11.

HPC (1)

hardburlyboogerman (161244) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848778)

Seems to me to be a bit snobbish.

And in other news... (5, Insightful)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848779)

Oracle disclaim MySQL and PostgreSQL as "toy databases", Microsoft claims that "Apache cannot be used for real web serving", and Sun announces that "Intel and Linux simply cannot be used for enterprise computing".

So all those supercomputing labs that use Linux clustering (that invented Linux clustering, even) have been wasting their time?

Re:And in other news... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848937)

MySQL and PostGre ARE toy databases compared to Oracle. They don't have the functionality nor the power of Oracle. They are taking steps to start working in some of the better features of Oracle, but it'll be awhile before that comes to fruition.

Show me a link where MS Says "Apache cannot be used for REAL web serving", you won't find it because that's not what they've said.

As to Sun Announcing that Intel and Linux cannot be sued for enterprise computing, well, they're p[artially right. I've seen Sun boxes trudge through loads that would hardlock a Linux box, ona daily basis, that's due to the hardware and the OS being built to work with each other. No one ever accused Slowlaris of having the "snappiness" of Linux, but if I had my choice of either a Sunfire with Solaris or a Dell with Redhat on it to take the brunt of my business, guess what, Sun is getting my money.

Re:And in other news... (1)

hawkbug (94280) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848972)

The original poster was simply making a point... those are not intended to be taken as real quotes. I believe the point is that ofcourse a competitor will make a statement discrediting their rival, so it's not news worthy or a surprise.

Re:And in other news... (1)

MasTRE (588396) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848991)

> So all those supercomputing labs that use Linux clustering (that invented Linux clustering, even) have been wasting their time?

Well, they haven't been wasting their cycles - that's for sure.

Are too (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848780)

"Most cluster [experts] know now that users are fortunate to get more than 8% of the peak performance in sustained performance."
Tell that to PIXAR. I don't believe it either.

I guess that the simple problem is just that the algorithm applied is usually not suitable for massively parallel computing.

Re:Are too (2, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849017)

Tell that to PIXAR. I don't believe it either.

Ya beat me to that one. I won't post it because it would be modded redundant, but I would have mentioned Google also.

for the love of... (0, Redundant)

boisepunk (764513) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848799)

Cray CTO: Linux clusters don't play in HPC

By Jan Stafford, Editor
12 Apr 2004 | SearchEnterpriseLinux.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Linux clustering was touted as the next big thing by many vendors last week at ClusterWorld Conference & Expo 2004.

But supercomputer vendor Cray Inc. scoffed at the notion of putting Linux clusters in the high-performance computing (HPC) category. In fact, Cray showcased a system -- Cray XD1 with Active Manager -- that will compete in performance and price with some Linux clusters upon its release..

Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada. "At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

Businesses shouldn't expect supercomputer performance from Linux clusters, Terry warned.

"Cluster vendors would have you believe that their performance is the linear sum of each of their respective GFLOPS [Giga Floating Point Operations Per Second]," he said. "Most cluster [experts] know now that users are fortunate to get more than 8% of the peak performance in sustained performance."

Linux clusters do have a place. "For applications that require low performance, they are a cheaper solution," said Terry.

With XD1, Cray intends to make HPC a cheaper solution, too. "With the Cray XD1, Cray will introduce new price points that should make HPC solutions more available to industries that before couldn't afford such devices," Terry said.

Cray XD1 was developed by OctigaBay Systems Corp., a Vancouver, B.C., Canada-based company acquired by Cray on April 2. Formerly OctigaBay 12K, Cray XD1 will be released to some companies for testing in May. Full release is expected later this year.

The acquisition of OctigaBay's technology will allow Cray to move into new markets by "doing supercomputing on a smaller scale with some commercial, off-the-shelf components," said analyst Richard Partridge, vice president of Enterprise Server Solutions for DH Brown in Port Chester, N.Y. "Cray just can't shrink its custom-built supercomputer designs," he said. Having the ability to put a value-added HPC solution on AMD processors is a good way to move downmarket.

Cray XD1 marries the performance of large SMPs with the economics of cluster solutions, according to Terry. It will also pair new interconnect and management technologies with AMD Opteron 64-bit processors in a direct-connected processor architecture. Its parallel-processing capabilities will directly link together processors to relieve memory contention and interconnect bottlenecks found in cluster systems.

"The Cray XD1 is not a traditional cluster; it does not use I/O interfaces for memory and message passing semantics," said Terry. "For HPC, the most important thing is application performance, and the Cray XD1 is specifically designed to maximize application performance."

In some situations, XD1 would be a good replacement for very high-end Linux clusters, Partridge said. He sees the XD1 providing more "compute performance for the dollar" for organizations that do heavy number and data crunching and analysis. He noted, however, that Cray has shown analysts a limited amount of information about the new products.

Terry believes that individual copies of Linux used for HPC today are intrinsically "heavy" and run independently on multiple processors, significantly adding to the difficulty of managing clusters.

XD1's integrated management software -- Active Manager -- will eliminate the "FCAPS" management ills common to clusters. "Fault, configuration, accounting, provisioning and security" are not handled well by current cluster management solutions, he said. "Often times, [management] appears to be done as an afterthought instead of being designed into the system from the ground up," he said.

Active Manager, which was demonstrated at ClusterWorld, offers a single-point of system administration and control. By removing the need for the administrator to manually deal with individual copies of Linux running on multiple processors, Active Manager can avoid most of the variability and subsequent loss of quality with system administration, according to Terry.

When Cray XD1 and Active Manage are released next month, it probably won't pose a threat to commercial Linux cluster solutions, such as Oracle Real Application Clusters. "The commercial environment is still best served by Linux clusters," he said.

AC repost - STOP KARMAWHORES NOW ! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848878)

Cray CTO: Linux clusters don't play in HPC

By Jan Stafford, Editor
12 Apr 2004 | SearchEnterpriseLinux.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Linux clustering was touted as the next big thing by many vendors last week at ClusterWorld Conference & Expo 2004.

But supercomputer vendor Cray Inc. scoffed at the notion of putting Linux clusters in the high-performance computing (HPC) category. In fact, Cray showcased a system -- Cray XD1 with Active Manager -- that will compete in performance and price with some Linux clusters upon its release..

Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada. "At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

Businesses shouldn't expect supercomputer performance from Linux clusters, Terry warned.

"Cluster vendors would have you believe that their performance is the linear sum of each of their respective GFLOPS [Giga Floating Point Operations Per Second]," he said. "Most cluster [experts] know now that users are fortunate to get more than 8% of the peak performance in sustained performance."

Linux clusters do have a place. "For applications that require low performance, they are a cheaper solution," said Terry.

With XD1, Cray intends to make HPC a cheaper solution, too. "With the Cray XD1, Cray will introduce new price points that should make HPC solutions more available to industries that before couldn't afford such devices," Terry said.

Cray XD1 was developed by OctigaBay Systems Corp., a Vancouver, B.C., Canada-based company acquired by Cray on April 2. Formerly OctigaBay 12K, Cray XD1 will be released to some companies for testing in May. Full release is expected later this year.

The acquisition of OctigaBay's technology will allow Cray to move into new markets by "doing supercomputing on a smaller scale with some commercial, off-the-shelf components," said analyst Richard Partridge, vice president of Enterprise Server Solutions for DH Brown in Port Chester, N.Y. "Cray just can't shrink its custom-built supercomputer designs," he said. Having the ability to put a value-added HPC solution on AMD processors is a good way to move downmarket.

Cray XD1 marries the performance of large SMPs with the economics of cluster solutions, according to Terry. It will also pair new interconnect and management technologies with AMD Opteron 64-bit processors in a direct-connected processor architecture. Its parallel-processing capabilities will directly link together processors to relieve memory contention and interconnect bottlenecks found in cluster systems.

"The Cray XD1 is not a traditional cluster; it does not use I/O interfaces for memory and message passing semantics," said Terry. "For HPC, the most important thing is application performance, and the Cray XD1 is specifically designed to maximize application performance."

In some situations, XD1 would be a good replacement for very high-end Linux clusters, Partridge said. He sees the XD1 providing more "compute performance for the dollar" for organizations that do heavy number and data crunching and analysis. He noted, however, that Cray has shown analysts a limited amount of information about the new products.

Terry believes that individual copies of Linux used for HPC today are intrinsically "heavy" and run independently on multiple processors, significantly adding to the difficulty of managing clusters.

XD1's integrated management software -- Active Manager -- will eliminate the "FCAPS" management ills common to clusters. "Fault, configuration, accounting, provisioning and security" are not handled well by current cluster management solutions, he said. "Often times, [management] appears to be done as an afterthought instead of being designed into the system from the ground up," he said.

Active Manager, which was demonstrated at ClusterWorld, offers a single-point of system administration and control. By removing the need for the administrator to manually deal with individual copies of Linux running on multiple processors, Active Manager can avoid most of the variability and subsequent loss of quality with system administration, according to Terry.

When Cray XD1 and Active Manage are released next month, it probably won't pose a threat to commercial Linux cluster solutions, such as Oracle Real Application Clusters. "The commercial environment is still best served by Linux clusters," he said.

Re:for the love of... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848967)

I would call it a case where Group A disparages Group B because Group A privately sees Group B as a true threat / competitor.

Having seen a small cluster in operation, the Cray officer does have some good points. It still boils down to whether their improvements are worth the extra cost.

VA Cluster yet to be used (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848811)

Regardless of whether I agree with the article or not I feel compelled to point out that:

The 1100 node Apple G5 cluster in virginia has yet to run any real scientific code. So far it has only ran benchmarks.

What do you expect him to say? (3, Insightful)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848813)

"We are dropping our line of Cray supercomputers and replacing them with rack mounted Beowulf cluster of 486's!"

I am not saying Cray isn't worth it, but there is something to be said on replacing/fixing your supercomputer with over the counter parts.

So what DOES play in HPC? (2, Interesting)

huhmz (216967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848814)

REading the article it's fairly obvious that Cray's CTO has an agenda, however, assuming he's right, what does play in HPC? Cray Prorpritary Cluser OS (TM) or what?

Sure... (4, Insightful)

avalys (221114) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848821)

In other news...

"Despite assertions made by Toyota salesmen, a Lexus sedan is not a luxury car," said Bill Taylor, CEO of Mercedes-Benz.

Re:Sure... (2, Funny)

boisepunk (764513) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848859)

"Windows(TM) has a lower TCO than Linux"

-Microsoft ad campaign

(mods: don't hurt me. I mean nothing but to contribute to good discussion.)

Re:Sure... (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848950)


Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper

He's got a point (4, Insightful)

PissingInTheWind (573929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848825)

Clusters can get high performance on some types of tasks. But sometimes, you need fine-grained parallelism that just isn't available on a cluster.

On the other hand, high performance usually comes through special hardware. And on that hardware, I think Linux could be the right thing (modulo some patches).

Re:He's got a point (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848971)

Clusters can get high performance on some types of tasks. But sometimes, you need fine-grained parallelism that just isn't available on a cluster.
And sometimes you need high performance on code that doesn't have fine-grained parallelism, meaning a Cray vector machine would be slow. So I guess Crays aren't High Performance Computers either.

Re:He's got a point (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849008)

Well somebody figured out the point. Clusters of Linux boxes on intel gear do not do what everybody neads. Yes if your running some things it works fine for others it dosent. Cray traditionaly makes the realy big boxes with lots and lots of proccessors that are very close to there memory and have a very fast interconnect and IO speeds. Linux clusters right now only get you so much interconnect and IO speeds (Infiband comes to mind at 10gb a sec per card) I do like that fact they are pushing the AMD chips there design is a leapfrog over Intel in performance in the x86 space. In the long run it may make sence for cray to intergrate with Linux like IBM has. They would have to move over a lot of there super secret code for performance to make it realy work well though.

cray can... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848829)

Cray can kiss my shiny, metal ass.

Flame Bait? (2, Funny)

Natchswing (588534) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848833)

This is news? This is the equivalent of posting, "My AMD processor is better than your Intel processor!" It's a quote designed to ignite a fact-less argument on who has bigger ones.

Now, if the CTO of Cray Canada started talking about your mother than I think you're morally entitled and required to respond.

Re:Flame Bait? (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849026)

This is the equivalent of posting, "My AMD processor is better than your Intel processor!" It's a quote designed to ignite a fact-less argument on who has bigger ones.

No, no. That *would* have content -- it would mean that some consumer, for one reason or another, is willing to back a purchase he made. *This* is contentless -- an exec at a company says that really, his products (which are being squashed in the marketplace) are better than the competition. You'd expect that from any company exec.

In other words, another PR opportunity (1, Redundant)

overbyj (696078) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848836)

Of course he is going to say this. He is an exec at Cray, what would he say "Oh yeah, our machines are good at HPC but of course you could build a Beowulf cluster fairly cheaply and efficiently and you wouldn't have to rely on us to do it."

Cray used to be a big name in computing but unfortunately for them, they are a relic now. They had their day and it hard to believe that they will be able to compete effectively against Beowulf clusters and Linux mainframes that IBM is pushing. With IBM's public love and more importantly, financial, affair with Linux at the high end, I wouldn't want to compete with them.

Re:In other words, another PR opportunity (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848973)

Actually the good thing about this article is they are actually saying they are going to start pricing their new HPCs to compete with the clustors. So they can argue about it all they want but atleast they are also willing to compete.

First... (1)

greygent (523713) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848837)

First they laugh at you... check!

I guess all those universities using Linux clusters are a figment of our imaginations.

Let me guess since its slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848839)

I'm guessing it went something like this:

"Our Cheaper competition is nether competition nor cheaper"

It's not the vendors... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848855)

It's not the vendors who are claiming that Linux clusters are real supercomputers, it's the people who are using them to do real supercomputer work. They sell themselves based on actual price and performance.

Methinks Cray is feeling a little threatened...

Linux not usable for HPC? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848856)

Surely he has never seen OctigaBay's computers:

http://www.octigabay.com/

I do not work for them, I was simply amazed by what you can do with these things and how they interconnect with up to 1,000 boxes.

Oh, shit. I just went to their web site and THEY WERE BOUGHT BY CRAY!!!!

Hahahaha!!!! The ultimate Linux HPC is now a Cray product.....This is too funny...

Re:Linux not usable for HPC? (2, Informative)

chammack (233248) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849033)

Octigabay does (did) in fact make linux solutions. However, it is not a cluster. It's a more traditional supercomputer although it does use low cost AMD processors.

Cray isn't anti-linux per se, just anti-cluster.

Somehow I wouldn't be surprised, the next step seems to be cray-marketed cluster nodes with a proprietary high speed interconnect. (If you can't beat them, join them).

Maybe so (2, Insightful)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848858)

"Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer,"

Maybe so but not everyone can pull a Cray out of his ass when they need horsepower. A Linux cluster is affordable, a Cray is the thing of wet dreams..

Re:Maybe so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849054)

in 1985...

If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck.... (2, Interesting)

Ridgelift (228977) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848865)

Despite assertions made by Linux vendors, a Linux cluster is not a high performance computer, said Dr. Paul Terry, CTO of Cray Canada. "At best, clusters are a loose collection of unmanaged, individual, microprocessor-based computers."

I guess they're not happy about being only #19 on the Top 500 Supercomputer List [top500.org] . Linux is considered faster than they are according to the list.

The 'ol ad-hominem attack of "if you can't beat them ligitimately, attack them personally" just doesn't cut it Paul. Build a better computer.

Moron, Linux is not a computer. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848980)

So now you Zealots think Linux is what powers a computer system? How more will the delusion last?

Efficiency and cost argument (3, Interesting)

yppiz (574466) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848866)

The Cray CTO makes the point that Linux clusters get, at best, just under 10% peak as sustained performance and uses this as a justification that Linux clusters are not HPCs. This is a reasonable criticism. Let's take the percentage he cites as real for a moment. Now what is the cost difference between a Linux cluster and a Cray (not some future offering, but today) and how much more of a Linux cluster could you afford? Would that offset the quoted inefficiency? Would the flexibility of being able to use commodity components further offset any advantage Cray might have? What about 24hr or same-day parts replacement without a hyper-expensive service contract? At the end of the day, I suspect the Linux cluster wins out even given the sub-10% efficiency figure Cray cites. --Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu

Re:Efficiency and cost argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848922)

Thank you for being the first to post with an actual response to what the article says, and not just another assertion of, "But.. but... linux is better!"

Checking with the TOP 500 Supercomputers I find (0, Informative)

Jerry (6400) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848871)

that Linux first appears at the 6th spot and Cray appears at the 19th.

Who doesn't play in what?

Re:Checking with the TOP 500 Supercomputers I find (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848946)

You have to be impressed that they hold 19th, really. I thought that Cray was long since out of business.

Re:Checking with the TOP 500 Supercomputers I find (1)

idiat (12297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848993)

4, 5 and 7 are also Linux.

Re:Checking with the TOP 500 Supercomputers I find (1)

DaveHowe (51510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849022)

And indeed, look at the #3 slot - which is also a cluster, albeit Mac/OsX rather than Intel/Linux but...

SGI (0)

MrRuslan (767128) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848873)

SGI came out with some fine high performance linux boxes with up to 256 CPU per kernel check out www.sgi.com

Re:SGI (2, Insightful)

rawgod0122 (574065) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848986)

I assume you are refering to the Altix systems. They are Single System Image systems (SSI), when means they are built like a supercomputer, and not like a cluster. They are big and expensive.

SSI is where all CPUs can see all memory as if it was local. They are also Non-uniform memory access which means all the memory it sees is not as fast as all other memory, but really ALL single systems are like this. For example each CPU can address the entire TB of memory that is in the system, but reading from one memory location might take 100 cycles, and from another might be closter to 1000 cycles.

the list (3, Funny)

hakr89 (719001) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848874)

well i guess now we'll have to add them to the list...after SCO and Microsoft of course

Funny... (2, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848887)

Works for Google...

Wish I'd been there so I could have slapped him after about 3 seconds of stunned silence.

The next big thing? (1)

nonmaskable (452595) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848894)

Marketdroidspeak again. Linux clusters have been a pretty common technique here for many (10?) years. Back then, you could call a bubble sort algorithm "research" if you ran it on a beowulf.

Problem (5, Interesting)

rawgod0122 (574065) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848896)

It all depends on the problem you are trying to solve. I have been doing some work of late that would not complete in my life time on the 108 node cluster that we have. But when programmed for and run on two Cray X1s I should complete inside of a week.

Granted there are many codes (and more every day) that will run on clusters, the big iron will never die.

Just because we love Linux.... (5, Insightful)

foooo (634898) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848908)

Just because we love Lunux doesn't mean that clusters are HPCs.

There are real issues that differentiate mainframe/supercomputers from large, powerful, clusters.

Of course this all depends on your definition of an HPC. But I believe that it's reasonable to say that if parts of your computer are connected with low bandwidth connections (10/100,gigabit) they just can't handle the same kinds of transactions that a computer with parts that are connected by 10 gigabit or 1000 gigabit connections or whatever it is nowadays.

As far as I know if you're deploying a large database it's still advisable to have a big huge IBM mainframe or a Unisys box or a Sun 10k instead of 4,8 or 16 clustered 8 proc machines.

My point is there are valid arguments for not including clusters of commodity hardware in the HPC category.

In my mind they aren't High Performance Computers... they are High Performance Clusters of Commodity Computers.

~foooo

Linux has failed you (3, Funny)

Meor (711208) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848909)

Where's your God now hippies? Where's your God now?

Re:Linux has failed you (1)

Araneas (175181) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849041)

Wanted:
Willing, virgin, King-like Fool
Free housing in wicker Tux with ocean view.
Must understand clustering and the true meaning of sacrifice.
Apply: Gnu-isle

Partly right, partly wrong.... (4, Insightful)

ERJ (600451) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848915)

How well a cluster will do depends on the application that it is performing. Some problems can be divided into several small problems with little reliance on other parts of the problem (SETI / Encryption breaking). These things can be easily distributed to hundreds or thousands of "small" boxes for processing and are what a beowulf cluster would be good at.

Other applications require the breakneck interconnect speeds that large Cray / Sun / etc.. build on. When the data being calculated on one CPU requires data from CPU2 to continue its calculations you don't want to have it wait for 100mbit or even 1gbit ethernet speeds. Even quicker interconnects such as SCALI [scali.com] are going to be slowed by PC bus speeds.

Cray fills an important niche for those who can afford it.

Of course he'd say that. He's Canadian. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8848916)

He just wants to pump up OpenBSD.

Different tools (4, Insightful)

BoneFlower (107640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848923)

The comment was stupid, yes, but not all jobs that you'd use supercomputers for can be broken down into many threads as others can. A linux cluster will do well for some jobs, a cray box will do well for others. There *will* be times when a Cray system is so far superior to anything you could do with Linux that it becomes the only real option.

However, dismissing linux cluster technology automatically is dumb. In many cases, it provides more than enough cpu power and I/O bandwith to support your reason for getting a supercomputer, and probably at less cost than the other options.

Its all a matter of determining what you need the computer to do, determining your budget, and get the best system in your budget for the uses you have for it. Sometimes that will be a Cray, sometimes a Linux cluster.

What else d'ya expect him to say? (1, Redundant)

arvindn (542080) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848934)

After all, he's in the competition. Duh.

The simplest rebuttal is that its not what you call it that matters but what you can do with it. And, judging by the ubiquitous deployment of linux clusters, the answer seems to be "almost anything under the sun".

Says who? (4, Funny)

dagnabit (89294) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848953)

Who is this guy and what does a company like Cray know about... oh... never mind.

Can you multithread your application? (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848959)

Clusters can rival a supercomupter when they are assigned is a task that's suitable for distributed computing. That is, work units can be divided up and worked on in any sequence... the result of segment 45 doesn't depend on knowing the result of 44 and such. Effectively, you can have the sum of all of the processors minus just a little overhead for the clustering.

What Cray's rightfully pointing out is that for most business applications, however, distributed computing is not a viable option. When processing on a transaction basis, the transactions often need to posted in the exact order they were recieved, which means they must be taken serially. In those situations, the programs can't multithread work out to the other processors so well, and the cluster will end up running at roughly the speed of just one processor while the others waste clock cycles waiting for something to do.

The cluster isn't the solution to everything. Nor is the supercomputer. You've gotta think about the job, then figure out which tool is right for the task.

World's Fastest Computer (1)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848963)

Cray - Hah!, Linux Cluster - Hah!, Pentium 7 Quintuple Xeon - Hah!

Everyone knows THIS [apple.com] is the world's fastest computer.

Further info. [com.com]

I await the flames from the Jobsians

These are not the Droids you're looking for.... (2, Insightful)

RedLeg (22564) | more than 10 years ago | (#8848965)

Buy MY droids instead..... Move along.....


His rhetoric is quite predictable, actually. He talks at some length about how and why clusters of PCs can't get the job done, and how clustering is inherently inferior to a REAL SuperComputer, then goes on to describe how their new product (which sounds suprisingly like a cluster of propreitary machines) can work. Repeat the above as it applies to the management software.


If clustering doesn't work, and Supers are better / cheaper, explain why large companies (Pixar, NVidia, ...) Government Labs (Los Alamos National Labs, Sandia National Labs, ...) have invested, and are continuing to invest in and support their clusters.


Note that this does NOT mean that clusters are suitable for ALL traditional SuperComputing tasks. It really depends on the problem. If the problem is better solved with a vector processor, then a vector machine (like a Cray) is what you want. If the problem is solvable in parallel, then a cluster might be the right answer.

Cray has some points. (4, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849009)

While Dr. Paul Terry's comments are obviously self-serving, especially since in a way, with the Cray XD1 based on multiple AMD processors rather than proprietary Cray processors, he does have a point about the overhead of running the OS on each machine in a cluster, and the statement "The Cray XD1 is not a traditional cluster; it does not use I/O interfaces for memory and message passing semantics."

In truth, such machine will always have a certain performance advantage over traditional clusters. The question is, will the price point be low enough to invalidate the idea of just adding more boxes to the traditional cluster.

to sum it up (2, Insightful)

Revek (133289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849019)

Cray is losing market share and want people to believe that their expensive to maintain and operate machines are better and 'cheaper' than a clusteer of regualar pc's running together. My question is Does anyone with experiance with both systems back him up.

He's wrong, but he's also right. (4, Informative)

Richard Mills (17522) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849024)

While I certainly disagree that you can't build a very high performance computer out a cluster of computers (Linux or otherwise), there is a lot of merit to the fact that clusters just don't scale well for certain classes of applications. Hence the renaissance of the vector supercomputer (ala the Earth Simulator [jamstec.go.jp] ).

Obviously, this guy is plugging the new Cray X1 architecture, which really is quite promising. For instance, check out this paper [sc-conference.org] by some folks at Oak Ridge National Lab that appeared in Supercomputing 2003.

Of course, since this is Slashdot, I expect that there will be a deluge of posts decrying everything about the new Cray machine because it commits the cardinal sin of NOT USING LINUX. Oh, the horror!

disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849034)

I'm sure Hank Dietz would disagree : http://www.aggregate.org [aggregate.org]

Marketing BS, but he has a point (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849036)

The "interconnect" latency (especially) and bandwidth in a cluster, even using very high-end network hardware, is much worse than that of a Cray-style supercomputer. This does make certain applications run slower, especially if not specifically tailored to clustered architecture. Some applications are very difficult to break down into small pieces and require extensive memory sharing between nodes, which clusters just can't do well.

Trippin (1)

MasTRE (588396) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849043)

Cray is one of the few last behemoths left. If they can survive, surely this is not the way. This is borderline-SCOish, or Microsoftish. Oh well, at least the last thing they do won't be selling Crays @ WalMart, as Sun apparently wants to do.

Cray is in denial, and that won't solve anything. What is certain is that they will fall.

He's wrong because (1)

idiat (12297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8849047)

To build a HPC supercomputer from a cluster you need a parallel network, you can chose between Quadrics, Myrinet or, (if you don't mind it not working) Infiniband. All of these work with Linux and have made large Linux clusters.

What cray are doing is interesting and is going to result in a big computer but it's in the same ballpark as current Linux supercomputers. They are competitiors, they do not dominate the playing field by any means.

OOOoooh, soooory 'boooot that, eh! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8849048)

Take off, eh!
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