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Supercomputer On the Cheap

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the mere-six-teraflops dept.

Supercomputing 133

jbrodkin writes "You don't need Ivy League-type cash to get a supercomputer anymore. Organizations with limited financial resources are snatching up IBM supercomputers now that Big Blue has lowered the price of Blue Gene/L. Alabama-Birmingham and other universities that previously couldn't afford such advanced technology are using supercomputers to cure diseases at the protein level and to solve equally challenging problems. IBM dropped the price of the Blue Gene/L to $800K late last year before releasing a more powerful model, Blue Gene/P, last month. Sales of Blue Gene/L have more than doubled since then, bringing supercomputing into more corners of the academic and research worlds."

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Try this!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20068891)

Get her to add you as a friend.....you get to see milfy bewbs!!!!

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=us er.viewprofile&friendID=108370887 [myspace.com]

It worked for me, Donny Most!@!!!~`~!

Re:Try this!!!! (1, Funny)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068929)

<moe>Listen to me, you little puke. One of these days, I'm going to catch you, and I'm going to carve my name on your back with an ice pick!</moe>

Re:Try this!!!! (0, Offtopic)

godfra (839112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068957)

Agreed.. this is Slashdot, no-one's dumb enough to click your stupid link.

Re:Try this!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069051)

I did.

Re:Try this!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069089)

I did.


As did I. She has a Slashdot account.

Mod me down, please.

Don't feed the trolls (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069679)

Feeding trolls can be a dangerous business as they will eat most anything, from garbage to fine cuisine. And, once they get a taste from your hand, they'll come back for more. It's best to keep them starved, cold and shivering underneath their bridges.

From TFA (5, Funny)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068911)

At its highest price, the Blue Gene/L cost $1.3 million per rack

Pamela Anderson eat your heart out!

Re:From TFA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20068927)

my rack is bigger than yours it brings the researchers to the yard i could teach you but i'd have to charge... *dances*

Re:From TFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20068983)

s/yard/departmental supercomputing facility/
s/teach/allocate compute time to/

ok, maybe not as catchy

I'm the laughing gnome, you can't catch me (2, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069217)

At its highest price, the Blue Gene/L cost $1.3 million per rack
Pamela Anderson eat your heart out!
my rack is bigger than yours it brings the researchers to the yard i could teach you but i'd have to charge... *dances*
I hear that David Bowie has a thing for Blue Gene computers:

"Blue Jean^wGene, I just met a supercomputer named Blue Gene
Blue Gene, She got a camouflaged face and no money
"
Remember, they always let you down when you need `em"

(Guess IBM's reliability sucks, then...)

"Oh Blue Gene
Is heaven any sweeter than Blue Gene?
She got a one-petaflop 294,912-processor, 72-rack system configuration harnessed to a high-speed, optical network,
She got a turned up nose...
"

Re:I'm the laughing gnome, - SGI Octane Songs (1)

Hollinger (16202) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069697)

This reminds me of the ill-fated SGI Octane promotional songs from the mid-to-late 90's.

http://www.digibarn.com/collections/songs/sgi/inde x.html [digibarn.com]

I'm going to avoid a direct link to the MP3s just to be nice to the host, but here's the first stanza of one of the songs:

"I Have a Dream"
I have a dream
and its two CPUs
What this will mean
Is no more desktop blues
Modeling and rendering
Designing analyzing
Just pick any two
I have a dream
and its two CPUs

As an SGI fan, I got a kick out of these. :-)

Re:From TFA (1)

Assassin bug (835070) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069601)

Is this in the voice of Elma [scarlet.nl] Jetson [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:From TFA (3, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068953)

And knowing most super computers, both would be far too large, ugly, and filled with silicon.

Re:From TFA (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069043)

On the plus side; most supercomputers are fully hot swappable, try doing that with women.

Re:From TFA (2, Funny)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069331)

On the plus side; most supercomputers are fully hot swappable, try doing that with women.
My experience says the hotswap turns to a dual cold shoulder; It has something to do with an error when malloc fails to make sufficient room to store correct name, or a null pointer is dereferenced when trying to remember name. Oh well. There's still hope.


while(1)
{
myGirl = myGirl -> cuteFriend;
delete myGirl -> last;
}
myGirl -> isHappyEnding = !(myGirl -> isHappyEnding);

Re:From TFA (2, Funny)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#20076413)

It appears that you have some problems with your logic as you will just stay in that while loop indefinitely (yeah right). Here is the updated code, and man is it complicated! But if you learn one thing from this, its that it only gets more expensive...

// initialize variables
myGirl = arg[0];
acctbal = arg[1];
girl_count = 1;

while (!screwed) {
date_cost = 20;
while (!bored && !dumped) {
date_success = date(date_cost);

if (date_success) { date_cost = date_cost * 1.75; }
else { dumped = true; }

bonus = will_have_sex() ? 1000 : 0;
attractiveness = (myGirl->personality * myGirl->hotness^2) + bonus / (date_cost * this->fear_of_commitment);

if (attractiveness < 1) { bored = true; }
}
myGirl = myGirl -> cuteFriend;
delete myGirl -> last;

if (date_cost ^ girl_count < acctbal ) {
screwed = true;
}
girl_count++;
}

function date(cost) {
if (cost > acctbal) {
return false;
}
else {
acctbal = acctbal - cost;
return true;
}
}

function will_have_sex {
if (acctbal > 1000000 || date_cost > 250) { return true; }
else { return false; }
}

Re:From TFA (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070759)

sorry, i value my life to much for that.

Re:From TFA (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069699)

Let's not forget that with Pam, you only got one rack. IBM gives you *several*.

Of course, they're all blue, but picky, picky.

Re:From TFA (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070351)

I'm sure Pamela's rack has gotten her way more than $1.3 mil.

Re:From TFA (1)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20073613)

I know there has to be a joke regarding the bit about "snatching up supercomputers" and it would belong in this thread.

"Supercomputer" (2, Insightful)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068917)

Anybody can have a supercomputer on the cheap because the definition of supercomputer changes every 3 seconds.

Peter

Re:"Supercomputer" (4, Interesting)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068959)

i think my PS2 is supercomputer isnt it? Weren't the US government going to restrict exports on them as they were considered munitions or something daft like that. Same thing for old Mac G5 as i recall. Might be a stupid urban myth though.

Re:"Supercomputer" (2, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069001)

i think my PS2 is supercomputer isnt it?
Hah! These old and heavy IBM PS/2's are deadly weapons once loaded into my bolt thrower. Imagine using Blue Gene and my goal of World Domination is coming nearer.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

Schnoogs (1087081) | more than 7 years ago | (#20073473)

PS2 = Playstation 2 They were actually classified as a supercomputer

Re:"Supercomputer" (4, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069163)

Might be a stupid urban myth though.


Nope, at least on the PS2 count (I don't know about Mac G5s). Back in 2000, Saddam Hussein was purchasing Sony PS2s by the thousands [freerepublic.com] , which were then banned from export, due to them being classified as munitions.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070319)

Altivec on the G5 processor could do quite a bit of calculations - no wonder if they were banned for that performance

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069401)

>they were considered munitions
Certainly true that firing a PS2 out of a big gun was about the best thing you could do with them.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

hurting now (967633) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070237)

Actually it was their components which were supposed to be able to be used in missile systems... not the game system as a weapon.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071183)

I was talking PS2 as in IBM late 80's PCs. PS2 consoles are/were OK-ish, given that they are made by Sony.

I remember (2, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071053)

Way back when I was in jr. high around 1980, my friends and I were going ga-ga over the latest issue of Byte magazine at the library. It had a chart listing various computers (processors) and their FLOPS [wikipedia.org] . The 6502 (Apple II) and 8088 (IBM PC) were listed at less than 1000 FLOPS (they didn't do floating point so it had to be emulated in software). We were drooling over the Cray Supercomputer which was listed at 1 million FLOPS, or 1 MFLOPS.

A 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo rates around 500 MFLOPS. An nVidia 8600GT which you can pick up for about $130 rates around 114 GFLOPS (114,000 MFLOPS). The upcoming 9800GTX is supposed to rate at over 1 TFLOPS.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 7 years ago | (#20072217)

i think my PS2 is supercomputer isnt it? Weren't the US government going to restrict exports on them as they were considered munitions or something daft like that. Same thing for old Mac G5 as i recall. Might be a stupid urban myth though

FYI Apple computers can be used to make a supercomputer. The MACH5 [top500.org] is number 50 in the TOP500.

Supercomputers are cheap, but many other products aren't getting cheaper at the same rate. A pack of toilet paper might be practically free if prices dropped as fast. However, who would stay in the toilet paper business. Computers will be cheap as long as money can be made. But there should come a day when anyone can make their own computer from raw materials, instructions posted online, and specialized power tools.

Having more powerful computers is tantamount to having more power. If personal computers become more and more powerful, catching up with yesterday's supercomputers as they exist today, people will be able to construct various items for themselves, including computers and machinery merely by selecting a few options and clicking OK. We'll wait with bated breath what happens to prices of common commodities.

Re:"Supercomputer" (2, Interesting)

BrianHursey (738430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069145)

I think the super computers are a thing of the past. Now days clusters are the way to go. Much cheaper and flexible.

Re:"Supercomputer" (4, Insightful)

jcgf (688310) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070439)

Every time there's an article on supercomputers someone brings up clusters. As has been pointed out before, a cluster only works for easily parallelizable problems where you can divide your problem into many subproblems that can be divided amongst your nodes. This is not a problem with supercomputers as you have much faster communications amongst processors (ie they're not just cheaply connected with cat5 ethernet cable like beowolf) and thus you can solve problems on a supercomputer much faster in this case.

Supercompters aren't going anywhere fast.

Re:"Supercomputer" - SAN Cluster DB (1)

BrianHursey (738430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071425)

You are correct. A preprocessing cluster needs to be used for parallelizations problems. However it can also be used for clustering database operations via fiber over a SAN (Storage Area Network) environment. This give the flexibility to add more nodes in a business environment to expand storage and preprocessing power. One example is a Oracle RAC cluster software with OCFS oracle cluster file system. With logical volume managers and a flexible storage array like an EMC Symetrix (High end) or a EMC Clariion ( Mid Tier) provides scalability to continually expanding the infrastructure to meet business needs.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

Rhys (96510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071769)

Clusters are supercomputers. Supercomputers are clusters. The only question is what purpose your machine is built for. Some problems aren't tightly coupled (or your machine is small) and so an interconnect like Gig-E is fine. Some problems are and you want one of the specialty interconnects: Myrinet, Infiniband, Quadrics Elan, or possibly even 10Gig-E.

Any machine you see in the top500 list that mentions any of those interconnects is a cluster. I don't really think you can classify #7 and #8 on that list as "not a supercomputer."

Even BG or the Cray XT series are really just clusters with a custom vendor-supplied fast interconnect (or interconnects).

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

cerelib (903469) | more than 7 years ago | (#20073327)

Clusters are supercomputers. Supercomputers are clusters.

It might be nitpicking, but I think it would be more appropriate to say, "Clusters can be supercomputers. Supercomputers can be clusters." Because I can make a cluster that is not a supercomputer and make a supercomputer that is not a cluster.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070645)

I think the super computers are a thing of the past. Now days clusters are the way to go. Much cheaper and flexible.

Yes, no, maybe.

I guess the best definition of a cluster vs a "real" supercomputer is distributed memory connected via some kind of interconnect vs a large shared memory SMP. A blue gene is a distributed memory system connected via interconnects. The Cray XT4 and XT3 are distributed memory systems connected via interconnects. Actually, I think that SGI is the only guy that really makes large quasi shared memory SMP boxes. They are a ccNUMA architecture that kind of blurs the distinction between the two.

AFAIK, large SMP systems are great when you have when you have a large static DB of info that needs to be shared by all compute nodes. Again, AFAIK, this is what those who design things like abombs where the plasma states of heat, temperature, pressure, etc are known beforehand, and these things need to be looked up as you step though the simlation of the chain reaction.

Fast forward to 2007 and beyond, and like most oppositely opposed arguments, the "real" answer is a combination of the two and not either one in absolute. Today, big computer systems are a hybrid of shared and distrubuted memory systems. The shared part comes within each compute node where almost 100% of the time there is more than one CPU or CPU core inside of the box that shares the memory inside of the box, and then distributed memory between these little SMP guys.

I see this latter arrangement being dominant for quite some time, with the number of CPU cores increasing per compute node over time.

Then again, you could also just look at these things as prototypes of future desktop computers where boys just like more expensive toys.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1, Interesting)

solevita (967690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069159)

I think you mean that anybody can have an old supercomputer. The ever changing definition means staying on top requires a little more than $400,000.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069551)

Anybody can have a supercomputer on the cheap because the definition of supercomputer changes every 3 seconds.


Although presumably the definition is revised up in terms of performance... It is not like everyone is sitting on old slow computers which suddenly become supercomputers by definition.

Re:"Supercomputer" (1)

warpSpeed (67927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071233)

It is not like everyone is sitting on old slow computers which suddenly become supercomputers by definition.


Well there goes my plans to bring forth my dark legions of 486's and P75's...

An one know where I can get a bunch of ISA NICs and 10 Mbit hubs?

Beowulf! (3, Funny)

rgravina (520410) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068933)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Taking about supercomputers... (2, Insightful)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069225)

Wow moderators, since when are old lame jokes redundant? (He's the first to post our beloved Beowulf-phraseme in this discussion.)

And he's even right, clusters are the most frequent architecture in the TOP500 [wikipedia.org] :

373 systems are labeled as clusters, making this the most common architecture in the TOP500 with a stable share of 74.6 percent.

Re:Taking about supercomputers... (-1, Flamebait)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069541)

Wow moderators, since when are old lame jokes redundant?

They are redundant because they are old and lame. Except in this case where the comment is actually relevant and a little insightful.

Sorry... (1)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071257)

Since I was modded "offtopic" but I really feel *on*topic let me elaborate my point:

It's nice that the Blue Gene/L is now considerably lower, but the low budget "supercomputer" is a cluster of inexpensive computers. That is probably shown be their number (373 of 500) in the TOP500 [wikipedia.org] and by the fact that Google runs several clusters [wikipedia.org] of x86 PCs.

Distributed computing is a different solution to the same task that a Blue Gene/L can solve, both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Overclocking (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070779)

I'm just waiting for tomshardware to publish an article on overclocking one of these. "We get awesome framerates in Quake!"

Re:Beowulf! (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#20072161)

I was trying to think of the configuration of a $800K Beowulf Cluster, what would the performance comparison be to the IBM Gene?

Imagine... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20068943)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these...

ivy league cash? (1)

entartete (659190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068949)

are there any ivy league schools that actually have one of these? I don't recall seeing any blue gene systems very high up in the top500.org list at any of the eight ivies.

Re:ivy league cash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069183)

At the very least, Princeton and Harvard have one... MIT, too, but I'm not sure if they're considered 'Ivy League'.

Re:ivy league cash? (3, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069611)

If you search through the whole top500 [top500.org] list, you'll find these Ivy Leaguers with Blue Gene computers:

#93 Harvard
#382 Princeton

But, there are plenty of other US schools on the list with Blue Gene computers (and a many outside the U.S. as well):

#5 SUNY Stony Brook
#7 Renssellaer Polytechnic
#63 California-San Diego #374 Boston University
#376 Iowa State
#379 MIT
#383 Alabama-Birmingham

Re:ivy league cash? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069671)

In most cases, they bought supercomputers before IBM started making "cheap mass market" units. i.e. they don't have BlueGenes because they have custom one-offs.

I know Cornell Theory Center has a few supercomputers that were top of the line when installed, but I think they're getting a bit old nowadays.

Yup, Cornell has dropped off of the top500 for now. They held the #6 rank in 1995, were last on the top500 list with a ranking of 496 in 2006, and last held a top 100 ranking of 49 back in mid-2003. Just like these new BlueGene systems will drop off of the top500 list after 4-5 years.

Normal business... (3, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20068969)

Isn't this just normal business? "We're about to bring out the P series, so lets sell off the L series 'cheap'".

Having said that, I don't suppose nearly half price is that bad an offer, even if $800K isn't exactly 'cheap'!

Re:Normal business... (1, Insightful)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069031)

Maybe it's supercomputerspam (tag anyone?).

What with the IBM Saves $250M Running Linux On Mainframes [slashdot.org] story earlier it looks like IBM is pimping out their wares here on Slashdot.

They are probably behind the milfy bewbs too (is it too hard to put those two word into a lameness filter?)

Re:Normal business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069285)

Meh. Nearly half price of an over-priced model isn't so good. BG/L is interesting for sure, but of limited use in many domains due to the memory constraints. For $800K, you probably get 2K processors (each at 700 Mhz), whereas for that cost you can probably get 1K x86 processor 'cores' and much more memory. Applications might not scale as well, but overall performance on many applications would be better. (Scaling at 50% of 10 whatevers is better than 80% of 2 whatevers)

That said, I'd love a BG/L, and anyone who gets one now is going to have an advantage on designing for that sort of architecture, so porting to a BG/P should be painless and probably will bring plenty of rewards.

Re:Normal business... (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 7 years ago | (#20072555)

Yeah well I bet that it doesn't come with a monitor.
I've seen these sort of deals before, and they'll only sell you the box and the monitor, keyboard and mouse is all extra.
What a bummer!

Obligatory (1)

JuanCarlosII (1086993) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069059)

But will it run Linux?

Re:Obligatory (5, Funny)

Tap13579 (1135331) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069177)

Will it blend? That is the question.

Re:Obligatory (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070101)

Will it blend? That is the question.

no.

Re:Obligatory (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069193)

Beowulf cluster?

Yes it does (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069299)

and Eric's been running Plan 9 From Bell Labs and Inferno on the one he has access to at IBM.

http://graverobbers.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Bitches don't know about my beowulf cluster (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069073)

....

How do I paralleled my computing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20076363)

......

Stanford will always have the biggest (4, Interesting)

bblboy54 (926265) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069091)

Stanford still has the the best idea [stanford.edu] .

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (5, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069123)

Distributed processing is fine for "embarrassingly parallel" problems where the compute nodes don't need to communicate with each other. However, many problems solved by supercomputers or large clusters need communication between the compute nodes, so aren't amenable to distributed solutions.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (3, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069721)

A friend of mine once ran the massively parallel supercomputer centre at LaTrobe. He told me of how the transputer-based Connection Machine would run blindingly fast in parallel, only to have the lights slowly wink out until one small corner of the display was the only thing lit. He said it was disappointing, and rather funny, how parallel jobs tended to go linear over time.

Yep, sometimes you just need a few processors running very fast cycles.

Sigh... we miss you, Seymour Cray. Wish you hadn't taken your Jeep out that day.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070255)

That's the exact opposite end of the spectrum from embarrassingly parallel problems. In embarrassingly parallel problems you have so little data dependency that tasks can run independently or nearly independently. In you friend's case, the tasks were so interdependent that all the tasks were waiting on one task to finish, so there was nearly no speedup from adding more processors.

The bottom line is that the best solution to some problems is a grid of loosely connected computers. The best solution to others is one very fast processor. In between, there is SMP, where there are many processors in one computer, and clusters, where the processors are connected through a high-speed network. There is no one best solution, as implied by the original poster. The best solution depends on the problem to be solved.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (2, Informative)

Beatlebum (213957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070719)

The Connection Machine used up to 64K 1-bit processing elements configured to work lock-step with a single control unit (SIMD).

The transputer was something completely different. It was a 32-bit processor with four high-speed connections to other transputers. This could be used to implement a MIMD processing network.

The CM scaled well on data parallel applications, the transputer was more suited to course-grained parallelism.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069909)

That's why it's a pity that SGI (much as I dislike Irix) got so thoroughly thumped. Those 8-proc O2000 nodes connected into a distributed shared memory system which looked like a single, flat, address space for many purposes were nice machines, and relatively simple to program. Affordable BlueGenes, Altixes, and E25Ks (affordable being a relative term) are still useful due to their simpler to use shared design, over purely distributed code.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071503)

That's why it's a pity that SGI (much as I dislike Irix)

That's why they got thumped. Every UNIX vendor had a slightly different flavour of UNIX. It meant that developers had to maintain separate builds of their application for each platform. The platforms which
were the hardest/most expensive to develop for, were the ones that fell off the bottom of the annual budget.

Re:Stanford will always have the biggest (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20075987)

The confused business plan which placed them squarely in the path of bigger, more established, and better funded competitors didn't help either. Then there was buying Cray, and selling the SMP Sparc based system to Sun, because they couldn't figure out how to make money off it. Sun called it an E10K, and made a mint (and continued to develop it). SGI became roadkill.

For what? Supercomputers do only one job (2, Interesting)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069219)

Supercomputers and Mainframes are for totally different purposes.
A supercomp will do one and only one job parallely to finish it off much faster than any other computer.
A M/F can handle multiple jobs at the same time with lesser speed, but with considerable stability.

For many companies, one S/390 running OS/390 or even an AS/400 (not related) is more than enough for their entire Notes setup.

A supercomputer cannot be used to do that 24/7.

They are fast racecars which cannot race outside of circuit.

Re:For what? Supercomputers do only one job (2, Funny)

blake3737 (839993) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069945)

They are fast racecars which cannot race outside of circuit.
Are you trying to tell me I can take my Mainframe offroading? If I do this, can YOU be the one to tell my admin why his precious is covered in mud and burned clutch smell?

Re:For what? Supercomputers do only one job (1)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070147)

You'll be fine. Just remember, fuel should use a reliable delivery protocol and not UDP, and on no account use roofnet for a rollcage.

Re:For what? Supercomputers do only one job (1)

Rhys (96510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071113)

What are you talking about, 'only one job'? We run an average of 30-40 jobs on the local supercomputer I manage at any given time. Each job has their own chunk of nodes they run on. We run the machine at an average of 85% load all the time (actually more like 90-95% load when used, plus a few hours of 0% use maintenance each week). We do have failures in individual nodes fairly often, but what do you expect when you've got over 6k dimms in a room?

You're right they are different, but your impression of how a supercomputer actually runs is way off.

academic and research? try finance (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069301)

These days, $800K for a supercomputer is going to be snapped up by financial institutions far faster than academic and research. Didn't Mitsubishi just close its research plant? Banks and financial companies DEVOUR data, they're the real customers for this sort of thing. It's nice to speculate on the Folding@Home numbers you'd get, but these things are going to be used to make real money.

Re:academic and research? try finance (3, Interesting)

locokamil (850008) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069895)

If the price goes even lower, perhaps they will. I find it difficult to see this happening though: the financial firm I work for has swung from supercomputer to linux clusters, and is showing no signs of going back. The TCO for a bunch of linux blades is just so much lower than a supercomputer... and because banks are so conscious of their bottom lines, they usually don't improve things if they are already working.

Re:academic and research? try finance (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071137)

Pfft, the amount of money I've seen wasted in a financial organisation who I have done work for, is ... well embarassing really. Their spending on IT is pretty impressive, because they're looking for all manner of degrees of performance and resilience.

No, the real reason they won't go for one of these, is that the project manager signing the approvals doesn't understand why a shared memory supercomputer isn't the same as a big stack of server blades. And what he'd do with one if they got one.

Re:academic and research? try finance (1)

locokamil (850008) | more than 7 years ago | (#20073233)

I agree that even well-run banks waste money at times-- but that wastage (at least at my firm) is on the client-relations side. Backend departments like IT, however, are't nearly as profligate because in the end, they're cost centers, while client relations can potentially lead to additional revenue for the firm.

That said, if the need for supercomputer-level parallelization and power crops up, I (gasp) actually trust my bosses to know exactly how and why to use them: one of them worked with Cray Research back when Seymour Cray was coming up with the Cray-1. :)

Re:academic and research? try finance (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#20073355)

Probably a stupid question; what do financial institutions need the processing power for?

hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069317)

not counting floor space and people costs...

From TFA: At a price of $1.3 million, one Blue Gene/P supercomputing rack can perform 13.9 trillion operations per second and 350 million operations per watt.

So ... 13,900,000 million op/s at 350 million op/Watt comes to 39.714 kW power consumption.

Average US 2007 industrial cost per kWhr = $0.0616 (random doe site)

39.714 KW * 24 hr/day * 365 day/year * $.0616 kWhr = $21,430.31 / year in electricity.

How are these named? (1)

RandoX (828285) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069411)

The previous one was Blue Gene/L and the current one is Blue Gene/P. Was there a Blue Gene/M-Blue Gene/O, and they just weren't released as production configurations?

Re:How are these named? (1)

777v777 (730694) | more than 7 years ago | (#20075011)

L stood for "Light", as in not quite the full heavy BlueGene we will build in the future. It is not just a letter.

JUST IN TIME!! (5, Funny)

armodude (1133725) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069455)

FOR RUNNING VISTA the way it was meant to be run!!!

Re:JUST IN TIME!! (-1, Troll)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069707)

Coming from someone who most likely has not actually used Vista. But its ok, because it panders to the /. groupthink.

Re:JUST IN TIME!! (1)

armodude (1133725) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070459)

actually i have, and i just got word that the Vista rating system gave it a 4.99 Apperantly the perfect 5 score is only a theoretical number that is meant to get users to endlessly upgrade to new systems and sell more licenses

That's nothing.... (3, Funny)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069463)

If $800,000 is still too pricey for you, you can get a Cray supercomputer on eBay for $800:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Cray-J90-Supercomputer-1-CPU-2 -Memory-Modules-J-90_W0QQitemZ8816248638QQihZ014QQ categoryZ162QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem [ebay.com]

Re:That's nothing.... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#20069615)

And here's [ebay.com] two whole ones currently listed for $51 (though reserve's not met). Shipping on 3tons has to be pretty expensive, not to mention powering them =)

this is 6oatsex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20069545)

It's UAB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20070111)

Only out of town sports writers call it Alabama-Birmingham.

Re:It's UAB (1)

erzeszut (656145) | more than 7 years ago | (#20076333)

Amen. It would be nice to see the /. story corrected, as the Network World article uses the university's preferred name. Calling UAB "Alabama-Birmingham" is like calling UCLA "California-Los Angeles."

supercomputer now 100+ teraflops? (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070131)

This has been a marketing ploy for decades: calling a supercomputer from a few years ago a cheap supercomputer. Well, its no longer a supercomputer.

In the early 1980s a 60 megaflop Cray-1 defined "supercomputer" and the video processing in my cell phone is faster than that.

The new prize is a petaflop, with anything within a magnitude of that range a true super- at least for this year.

Re:supercomputer now 100+ teraflops? (1)

xeniast (575383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20072151)

My Mac Pro 2.66 Ghz runs at 30 gigaflops!

Blue Gene vs PVM (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070387)

I've been to several universities and I think it's safe to say all had some form of "supercomputer" for their CompSci department. A lot of it has to deal with how you define a super computer. Granted 15+ years ago Supercomputer meant Cray or IBM, but since Beowulf and the concept of using inexpensive parts to form clusters. MOsix/PVM/MVP, etc are all technologies that can allow people to use "the old labs computers" as a cluster, or get funding for some new hardware that's becomes a cluster.

It's a lot cheaper to buy 20-30 regular computers than a 1million cray or IBM "supercomputer".

Re:Blue Gene vs PVM (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071259)

There's a reason for that. It's because a cluster is just not the same as a shared memory supercomputer.

it's all very well to dig up OpenMP, PVM, MOSIX and the like, but the fact remains that they're only suitable for certain classes of problem.

Processor cycles are cheap, but that's not why your supercomputer is expensive. The reason it's expensive is because of the internal communication needed to run a tightly coupled compute job. Myrinet, Infiniband, Scali etc. provide some rather impressive interconnect technologies, but they're still not on the same playing field as the shared memory supercomputer systems.

If you're looking to run a few hundred 'fairly atomic' compute jobs, then yes, your cluster works fine and number crunching it. But not all problems are like that.

Re:Blue Gene vs PVM (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071599)

It's a lot cheaper to buy 20-30 regular computers than a 1million cray or IBM "supercomputer".
 
Or even better, set up a grid on the computers in the various pools around the department/universities. Setting up Condor on these various machines will get you a very powerful grid in very little time, the extra cost can be really small (if the computers are already left on).

UAB (1)

WhiteRider (1129293) | more than 7 years ago | (#20070661)

It's interesting to see UAB on /.

I just graduated from UAB with a BSEE this past May. :P

Free IBM Advertising on /. (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071321)

Alabama-Birmingham and other universities that previously couldn't afford such advanced technology are using supercomputers to cure diseases at the protein level

Does anyone have any examples of specific diseases that Alabama-Birmingham, or any other university, have actually cured "at the protein level" using these BlueGene supercomputers?

Not just doing research that will "eventually contribute to treatments". I want to hear which diseases have these BlueGene supercomputers being pimped in this Slashdot story actually already cured.

Wow, supercomputers for cheap! (1)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 7 years ago | (#20071895)

Wow those sound really cheap! I'll have to pick one up next time I'm out at the mall shopping for 24kt gold t-shirts.

Confused (1)

GeekyGuy (1135037) | more than 7 years ago | (#20074149)

Can anybody tell me what is so "super" about the Blue Gene?
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