THOR: A Versatile Commodity Component of Supercomputer Development
Our experience with the THOR Linux cluster described above shows that if we divide the total cost of the machine by the number of processors, we end up with a cost of around $1,500 (CDN) per processor. This is cheaper than conventional supercomputers by more than a factor of ten, assuming reasonable discounts apply. Although there are certainly applications in which conventional supercomputers are irreplaceable, on a price-performance basis, THOR (or Beowulf)-type multiprocessors are more attractive. Another cost advantage of the THOR Linux cluster is the low software cost. GNU's compilers and debuggers, along with free message-passing implementations (MPI) and portable batch-queuing system (PBS), with no yearly fees, offer good low-cost solutions. Better compilers including FORTRAN90, such as the Absoft product, offer significant performance enhancements and debugging tools in the MPI environment.
The comparatively small upfront costs of the THOR Linux cluster are matched by its low running costs. Our experience indicates that, at least for machines as large as THOR, the manpower costs involved with running the machine are low. For example, THOR requires only approximately 30% of the time of a networking/Linux expert. We think this is due to the reliability, design simplicity and accessibility of the commodity component multiprocessor approach. New nodes can be added to THOR on the fly without rebooting any machines; also, problem nodes can be hot-swapped. The node being a conventional PC, probably with a one-year warranty, can either be repaired or thrown away. In fact, hardware and software maintenance costs for THOR have proven to be negligible compared to the annual maintenance fees required by most conventional supercomputer producers. Such fees can be in excess of tens of thousands of dollars per year. The advantages of Beowulf-type clusters like THOR, running Linux, are so numerous that we are not surprised that more and more scientific and commercial users are adopting this approach.
James Pinfold (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Director of the Centre for Subatomic Research at the University of Alberta and leader of the THOR Linux cluster, a commodity component supercomputer project. His main research effort is in the area of high-energy collider physics, where he is currently working on the OPAL and ATLAS experiments at the European Centre for Particle Physics (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide