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Supercomputing: Raw Power vs. Massive Storage 346

Posted by Hemos
from the changing-the-playing-field dept.
securitas writes "The NY Times reports that a pair of Microsoft researchers are challenging the federal policy on funding supercomputers. Gordon Bell and Jim Gray argue that the money would be better spent on massive storage instead of ultra-fast computers because they believe today's supercomputing centers will be tomorrow's superdata centers. They advocate building cheap Linux-based Beowulf clusters (PCs in parallel) instead of supercomputers." NYTimes free reg blah blah.
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Supercomputing: Raw Power vs. Massive Storage

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  • Ny Times free reg?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by krisp (59093) * on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:16AM (#6095478) Homepage
    No Registration Required [nytimes.com]

    Just use the google link!
  • Brings a tear to my eye... life is good.
    • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:23AM (#6095575) Homepage Journal

      Because getting rid of "big iron" will kill IBM and Sun, their competitors. They can't *really* think that a cluster of PCs is a one-size-fits-all solution.
      • by TopShelf (92521) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:31AM (#6095645) Homepage Journal
        You're right, this could be more about impeding Sun and IBM than anything else, but I don't seem them recommending this as a one-size-fits-all deal - rather, they're making the case that clusters should be pursued over supercomputers for the data-intensive number crunching activities like nuclear explosion modeling, etc.
        • by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:01AM (#6095901)
          they're making the case that clusters should be pursued over supercomputers for the data-intensive number crunching activities like nuclear explosion modeling, etc.

          I doubt it. You can only use a "cluster" like a Beowulf if your problem can neatly be divided into small, completely independent work units. If you want to render a movie, then so long as you have all the scene data, each frame can be rendered completely independently of any other, then stitched together at the end.

          Try using a Beowulf-style cluster for a CFD problem, and watch as all computation grinds to a halt as your processors and interconnects devote all their capacity to inter-node coherency and synchronization. You need a traditional supercomputer like an SGI Origin for jobs like that, because of its massive internal bandwidth.

          There is absolutely no danger of Beowulfs killing off the supercomputer in the near future. In fact, the supercomputer market is looking pretty healthy.
          • by 73939133 (676561) on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:28PM (#6096580)
            Try using a Beowulf-style cluster for a CFD problem, and watch as all computation grinds to a halt as your processors and interconnects devote all their capacity to inter-node coherency and synchronization. You need a traditional supercomputer like an SGI Origin for jobs like that, because of its massive internal bandwidth.

            That used to be true, but I don't think it is anymore. A high-end Beowulf compute node these days typically gives you 2 processors and 2-4 Gigabit Ethernet channels, going into a high-end switch. That seems like it's in the same ballpark as the SGI Origin, which gives you nodes with up to 16 processors, up to 12GB/sec aggregate memory bandwidth, and 8 channels going into the router. They aren't going to perform identically, but I think the differences are diminishing.

            Furthermore, with distributed shared memory software, parallel linear algebra libraries, and SIMD-on-MIMD libraries, you can program it more or less like you would have a traditional supercomputer, without having to worry a lot about synchronization.

            OpenMosix, in an upcoming release, even promises to give you address spaces that cross machines, giving you effectively a NUMA machine on a network of PCs.
          • by cvdwl (642180) <cvdwl someplace around yahoo> on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:28PM (#6096584)
            "Try using a Beowulf-style cluster for a CFD problem, and watch as all computation grinds to a halt as your processors and interconnects devote all their capacity to inter-node coherency and synchronization."

            B...S...; we use a small Beowulf (16 dual 1 GHz PIII boards with a fast ethernet backplane from PSSC [pssclabs.com]) for oceanic numerical modeling and the problem scaled almost perfectly with number of processors.

            Our models are 3-dimensional, but sudivision and message passing takes place only in the horizontal two-D direction. And message passing only needs to account for the boundary nodes.

            Ease of use is a bit of a larger issue, however. For convenience sake I usually end up running at home on the dual Athlon and then doing big runs and batch jobs on the Beowulf.

      • by swordgeek (112599) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:36AM (#6095686) Journal
        In a word, Bullshit.

        These are not MS evangelists we're talking about here. Gordon Bell and Jim Gray know a 'thing or two' about high-performance computing.

        If these guys weren't able to speak their minds on technical matters entirely without retribution from Bill and Steve, they wouldn't be at MS at all. They don't have to be. They CERTAINLY don't have to tow the party line and recommend the flavour of the week, because it messes with the latest Sun/IBM/HP/Linux/Mac threat.

        Now if you actually look at the statement these guys are making and examine it based on their history, they've got a very good point. They're not talking even remotely about 'one-size-fits-all' systems--they're talking about the future of cutting-edge research.
        • I don't mean to be a language nazi here, but it's not "tow the line" it's "toe the line". In other words, if someone were to toe the party line, that means basically, their toes are lined up, which means that THEY are in line, It has nothing to do with dragging or pulling. Just trying to nip this one in the bud before it takes on other meanings :)
        • I dont know a lot about gordon bell so I cant critisize his work. but I do know that the bell prize is based on gigaflops per dollar. this creates computers that shortchange interconnection speed and parallelism for raw gigflops.

          this is not what high performance computing is about. this is the class of problems that are embarassingly parallel and dont need good disk access. in short pointless benchmarks like computing pi rather than solving real tightly coupled physics probelms like say asteroid impa

  • by GTRacer (234395) <gtracer308&yahoo,com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:17AM (#6095492) Homepage Journal
    ...But did you say a pair of Microsofties was advocating the use of Linux Beowulfs for research?

    My calendar says June 2nd. What does yours say?

    GTRacer
    - ? slooF lirpA

    • Mine says we're celebrating the new Hell Freezes Over holiday, first Monday in June off!

    • My calendar says its my birthday,
      so happy birthday to me.

      (maybe not april fools, but commemorating the birth of a fool? ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Don't confuse Microsoft research with the rest of Microsoft. The research branch has the same atmosphere as a university. In fact, Microsoft has bought a number of university research groups wholesale. Quite a few famous people are now working for them (e.g. Tony Hoare, Erik Meyer, and the guys in the original article).

      I've heard presentations from them, and talked to them in private, and I can assure you they are far from following the party line. I'm sure that any pressure from above to do so would cause
    • ...But did you say a pair of Microsofties was advocating the use of Linux Beowulfs for research?

      Well Sort of, If you read the article carefully Gordon Bell and Jim Gray, scientists at Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center, are saying that scientific computeing is moving toward a data-centric and away from a processing-centric model. They did give lip-service to linux/beowolf technology, but also said

      "But the Beowulf is a Volkswagen and these people are selling trucks."

      So actualy they are saying that Sun
  • by soboroff (91667) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:18AM (#6095505)
    Gordon Bell and Jim Gray are not just "a pair of Microsoft researchers". They are two of the biggest names in high-performance computing. Gordon Bell awards, anyone?
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:52AM (#6095831)
      This is such a no brainer its pathetic. The fed gov SHOULD NOT abandon ultra-fast super computing in place of mega beowulf clusters.

      Research on building Mega beowulf clusters is a legit govt activity and so is building some. But the beauty of the beowulf cluster is that it is affordable to bussinesses, acadmeics and govt, plus its very adaptable to budgets and interconnection schema (fast, slow, grid, scavenger).

      but beowulf clusters wont replace the need for super fast, super scalable, computers with well architected interconnects. there are lots of problems in this class, mostly physics simulation, that just cant be done well on beowulf clusters.

      I should probably note that my own work involves large computer clusters. However my probelms (in biology) are in fact well suited for beowulf clsters. thus I'm happy to hear of more money for beowulf computing. but frankly I think that this should be in addition to the fast computers.

      the flip side here is that it might be the case that money for fast computer resources is not being well spent as it could be at present. there seems to be too much emphasis on "landing the contract" for the computer center than on building a good design. congress via DOE tends to doll these things out in a political fashion making sure each big client gets funding for a center rather than letting the best center get the most contracts. as a result some of the so-called super computers may be just glofied too-expensive-per-cpu unscalable systems already that could be eclipsed by a comparable low cost beowulf system.

      but that being said its still an area that the gov needs to fund since it wont drive itself commercially but its needed for lots of science and simulation.

      • Actually, Beowulf clusters of 800-1,000 machines running Linux can be competitive with supercomputers.

        I remember reading in Wired magazine a few years ago about a biotech company here in the San Francisco Bay Area that clustered several hundred machines running Pentium III 600 MHz CPU's to do DNA mapping and analysis--and the results were just as fast as most supercomputers costing several times what that cluster cost.

        Imagine what a cluster of 700 to 1,000 blade servers running the latest Intel Xeon CPU's
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Well yeah, beowulf clusters blow the pants off of so called fast computers on any problem that is embarassingly parallel. (i.e. very low proscessor to processor communication and no vector processing and asyncronous low bandwith disk acess) That's why i use them in my own work in biology. (and yes I use systems 300+ processors, and soon maybe 2000 processors) but there are classes of problems, particularly ones using couple differntial equations, where this is not true.
        • by trog (6564) on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:28PM (#6096585)
          Imagine what a cluster of 700 to 1,000 blade servers running the latest Intel Xeon CPU's can do now! =)

          Actually, it would be a very crappily-performing cluster. Blade servers are designed with two major goals - CHEAP and SMALL. Blade servers are engineered for high availability applications (think webserver farm).

          Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean it's the optimal solution. It amazes me when I see vendors selling blade server clusters.

          (Disclaimer: I work as an engineer with a company with builds Linux based clusters for universities and labs)
        • Actually, Beowulf clusters of 800-1,000 machines running Linux can be competitive with supercomputers.

          News for you: Linux clusters are [techextreme.com] the new supercomputers. Not just Blue Gene, but probably Ascii Purple as well, which is supposed to be the fastest supercomputer ever.
  • by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:19AM (#6095514)
    Just wait till Bill and Steve hear that their engineers are recommending Linux instead of Windows 2003 Server.
  • by thirty-seven (568076) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:19AM (#6095516)
    Its nice to see some MS researchers going against the perceived stereotype and being open in their suggestions like this.

    And I think they have a good point about massive memory being a very important part of computing advancement right now.
    • > Its nice to see some MS researchers going against the perceived stereotype and being open in their suggestions like this.

      Microsoft does hire real CS/IT researchers, and there's no reason to suppose that they're all mini-monopolists waiting to grow up and hold the world ransom for... one million dollars.

      Moreover, even if they have "handlers" in Marketing, notice that switching from supercomputers to Beowulf clusters isn't going to hurt Microsoft any, since they aren't playing in the supercomputer ma

    • It would not be a bad thing if Microsoft grew to have an appreciation and respect for open-source software.

      It would mean that open-source won, and proved its point. When the world of computing finally turns from infighting to cooperation, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.
  • by hoggoth (414195) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:20AM (#6095543) Journal
    In an earlier story Microsoft researches recommended a Linux cluster. That story has been corrected. The Microsoft researchers recommend a hundreds of un-clustered Windows-XP servers. They claim they were eating Lea-Nuts brand PEANUT clusters at the time of the interview and were misquoted.

  • by mblase (200735) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:21AM (#6095548)
    By rewriting existing scientific programs, they say, researchers will be able to get powerful computing from inexpensive clusters of personal computers that are running the free Linux software operating system. Many scientists are now adapting their work to these parallel computing systems, known as Beowulfs

    Man, I'd like to see a... um... damn.
  • Hrm (Score:5, Funny)

    by mingot (665080) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:22AM (#6095556)

    New York Times?

    MSFT'ers recommending Linux?

    I thought they fired that reporter who was making things up :)
    • No, his name is John Markoff and he's still working there.

      Those of you that remember the Kevin Mitnick deal will remember this guy making stuff up back then too.
  • Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cultobill (72845) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:22AM (#6095560)
    Cluster computing really is the future. Supercomputers are expensive, run wierd OSes (sometimes), and have infrasructure requirements. A cluster (I prefer OpenMosix, but Beowulf if you like) just requires fast ethernet or fibre.

    Plus, think of all the computers that go unused at night in places like school computer labs. All those free machines could, at night, join a cluster and do number crunching for researchers.
    • Re:Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afidel (530433) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:40AM (#6095719)
      Clusters suck for some problems. Weather prediction is one classic one, fluid dynamics is a whole class of problems that suck on loosly coupled clusters. Basically you need your message passing interface latency to be much faster than one your calculation cycle or you just spin your tires waiting for results from adjacent cells. If all problems mapped well to cluster of comodity PC's then I can guarentee that Linux would be on almost all of the TOP 500 supercomputers because the cost/MIP is a fraction of the big systems. Then I look at the real TOP500 and realize that the top cluster of commodity PC's is only at #7 and it is beat out by a factor of 7 by the NEC vector supercomputer in the number one slot even though the NEC only has twice as many CPU's. Even then they aren't using fast ethernet or even gig ethernet, they are using the high bandwidth low latency Quadrics interconnects. The two other clusters in the top20 are using Myrinet which is also high bandwidth, low latency, but once you add those kinds of interconnects they kind of stop being cheap off the shelf PC's, since the connect boards probably cost nearly as much as the boxes =)
      • Clusters suck for some problems. Weather prediction is one classic one, fluid dynamics is a whole class of problems that suck on loosly coupled clusters. Basically you need your message passing interface latency to be much faster than one your calculation cycle or you just spin your tires waiting for results from adjacent cells. If all problems mapped well to cluster of comodity PC's then I can guarentee that Linux would be on almost all of the TOP 500 supercomputers because the cost/MIP is a fraction of th
      • Re:Nice (Score:5, Informative)

        by anzha (138288) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:09AM (#6095958) Homepage Journal

        Mod this guy up. He's really telling the truth!

        Loosely coupled clusters like PDSF [nersc.gov] are great for work like what the high energy physics people do, like SNO [slashdot.org].

        However, somethings work better on vector architectures such as climate models and fusion work: there is a reason why the Spanish Met troops [cray.com] bought a Cray. Additionally, some chemistry, many fusion and several other codes work best on vector architectures.

        There guys presented their global warming work where at my job. They've developed their climate code though as a parallel one. See here [ucar.edu]. One of the places that they have been running is on seaborg [nersc.gov], an IBM RS/6000 with over 6k and near 7k processors.

        Interestingly, the PCM guys presented what they wanted for an uber'puter. While it had massive amounts of storage, it was also a 500 *PETAFLOP* SUSTAINED PERFORMANCE machine.

        *clickety clack* That'd be something like 166,666,666 Athlons. IDK of any interconnects that handle that. Can you imagine being an admin? Better hope you're good on rollerblades zipping to and fro replacing those oh-so-reliable commodity disks and CPUs...even if you have a .05% failure rate, that's still too damn much. As an admin, that'd be a huge waste of time. It'd also wreck havoc on the guys running stuff.

        Or is that what grad students are for? To attempt such a silly thing and then admin it? ;)

        Seriously tho. To get from here to their, we're going to need some exotic techs...not just more 'attack of the killer micros'.

        • by paitre (32242)
          What spead Athlon are you using? And don't forget that the HPC/Cluster folks are absolutely -drooling- over the Opteron (which -CRAY- is putting into their next Big system). The I2 has been getting panned :)

          *shrug* I only admin the bloody things :)
          • by anzha (138288)

            I think they're 1.54 GHz Athlons, off the top of my head. I'll double check that later.

            We have an Opteron 4 way system. We're under NDA tho, so I can't speaaa*mmmph*mpph*

            Cray is actually taking a multipath approach to their next systems. They have the X1, their current development in the vector architecture, which they are going to follow up with an enhanced version. Then they also have the Red Storm, which you note, for scalar-cluster work. Then they have the MTA for threaded work too. Basically, t

      • by paitre (32242)
        I assume you're speaking of the Top500.org list, yes? Since that -is- the list most people refer to :)

        Now, to break it down:
        1. Earth Simulator: classive vector super computer.
        2 & 3. ASCI Q: Alpha Cluster.
        4. ASCI White: Power3 rig, not sure if it's a cluster or not...
        5. MCR Linux Cluster: name says it all.
        6 & 7: Both are Alpha clusters.
        8. HPTi: Linux Beowulf.
        9 & 10: IBM p690's.

        So, out of the top 10, -6- are clusters, not all but 1. I don't know what list you're using, but it certainly isn't t
        • Re:Nice (Score:2, Informative)

          by fitten (521191)
          A "cluster" is a broad term. A "Beowulf" cluster is one made from commodity parts connected with low-cost (100Mb - faster as the price point drops) Ethernet. A cluster can have exotic interconnects, which knocks it out of the Beowulf category. For example, IBM SP and SP2 machines are really just clusters. The Cray T3D and T3Es were really just clusters as well, if you think about it. ASCI Red and Sandia's C-Plants are also clusters.

          What usually governs what the machine is good at is more towards laten
      • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

        by RobertFisher (21116) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:13AM (#6095984) Homepage Journal
        This poster is wrong on several accounts, and should be modded down accordingly.

        Actually, when you say you did you take a look at the top 500 list, you should put actions behind your words. The top cluster is at #5 on the most recent list (LLNL's NetworX machine - http://www.top500.org/list/2002/11/), and is less than 20% behind the #2 spot. Guaranteed that within a year, linux clusters will indeed fill the #2 spot on down.

        Second, hydrodynamic problems (which are a class of hyperbolic PDEs), deal with nothing but local communications, and scale quite well even on Linux clusters. The more challenging set of problems are non-local PDEs (elliptic and parabolic -- like Poisson's equation and heat transfer). Because these problems couple every point in space to every other point in space at ever time, they reamin tough to solve on a parallel machine no matter what platform you are on.

        The Earth Simulator is a highly special case. The Japanese government made an enormous investment (well over $500 M) to purchase that machine. Even with the support of the DOE and private industry (increasingly biotech), the US just does not have the political willpower to spend that much on a single platform. It is often neglected that the current paradigms of high-performance computing are lacking in many respects -- some refer to the recent move towards very large parallel machines as "a great step backwards". We have to pursue technically innovative solutions which will be both cheaper to purchase than the Earth Simulator, and more efficient to use.
        • by paitre (32242)
          Actually, when you say you did you take a look at the top 500 list, you should put actions behind your words. The top cluster is at #5 on the most recent list (LLNL's NetworX machine - http://www.top500.org/list/2002/11/), and is less than 20% behind the #2 spot. Guaranteed that within a year, linux clusters will indeed fill the #2 spot on down.

          Actually, I'll have to disagree with this, to a point.

          I expect to see no -more- than half the top 10 be linux clusters. The reason for that is that most of the f
  • So, aside from the obvious statement about Linux based Beowolf servers, I find it interesting that these computer scientists turned "Microsofties" are advocating a position held by Oracle's Ellison. Jeez, this is the way things were back in the 70's too. What's old is what's new eh?

  • by ArmorFiend (151674) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:23AM (#6095564) Homepage Journal
    There are lots of reasons to have really good bulk storage technology. But what's the killer app that's going to get the $10^9/year in government spending? Can you say "Domestic Surviellance" boys and girls? I knew you could!
  • by zptdooda (28851) <deanpjm@gmail . c om> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:27AM (#6095607) Journal
    What company would like to supply database software worth a potential $1b per year?

    Just waiting for the other shoe to drop...
  • by Faizdog (243703) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:28AM (#6095616)
    Look at the average Joe Schmoe, or even us uber-users, who really needs a 3+ GHz machine? Even some of the cornerstones of fast computing such as computational problem solving are being addressed by grid/cluster based solutions which typically don't use high end machines.

    I'm perfectly happy with my P3 800MHz, but I run out of hard drive space everyday.

    Cheap, YET RELIABLE high density storage solutions are still not readily available. I know we are now down to a $1 per Gig, but the average size of a user's file has increased now. Media (legal or otherwise), games, and other programs are chewing up hard drive space.

    There needs to be more research into trustworthy, lowcost high volume storage mediums.
    • by alispguru (72689) <bane&gst,com> on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:45AM (#6095760) Journal
      Raw speed will always be useful for problems that are hard to parallelize. Right now those problems (parts of crypto, some quantum physics calculations, etc.) are important scientifically, but away from the money.

      Industry will spend R&D money on clustering for storage and reliability, without major government subsidy, because there's a crying need for it. How much government money went into Google/eBay/Amazon?

      Government research is supposed to complement industry R&D - to be aimed at fields where the results are still important, but maybe not as profitable. This is why government should not abandon raw speed as a research goal.
    • Look at the average Joe Schmoe, or even us uber-users, who really needs a 3+ GHz machine? Even some of the cornerstones of fast computing such as computational problem solving are being addressed by grid/cluster based solutions which typically don't use high end machines.

      Bullshit.
      While I'm not going to comment -too- much on the "who really needs a 3+GHz machine" it needs to be said that gamers tend to push them. It -also- needs to be said that developers on large projects will also push them. Downtime
  • Smart move. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abelikoff (412709) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:29AM (#6095630) Homepage
    As much as I hate conspiracy theories and Microsoft bashing, this may be an extremely clever move. As of now, mainframe and supercomputing worlds are still relatively safe from commiditization. Unlike Linux, which is still virtually ireelevant on the desktop, mainframes and supercomputers are much bigger a piece to swallow for Microsoft. By recommending Linux clusters, Microsoft may actually be trying to establish commodity hardware in the world of supercomputing. The keyword here is hardware. Once clusters become ubiquitous, Microsoft will start aggresively pushing Windows 200X Server Cluster Edition, fighting an enemy it has already much experience with.
  • by jhines (82154)
    Lots of data, in a networked array of systems.

    Sounds familar, and the RIAA and MPAA's worst fears.

  • The BBC has an article [bbc.co.uk] on a group of scientists who have built a beowulf cluster of Playstation 2s.
  • by jridley (9305) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:34AM (#6095671)
    I think they're advocating spending the big bucks on data storage rather than on big iron.

    When they mention beowulfs, it's in the context that when researchers need the equivalent of a supercomputer, they can just build/use a beowulf cluster. What they can't do on their own is come up with petabyte storage facilities and the data in them.

    So what they're really advocating is spending money on storage; it doesn't say in the article what form that storage should take.

    The government may very well like this. They're going to need big data farms to support the TIA program. It takes a lot of space to remember what kind of toppings every person in the US likes on their pizza.
  • by fruey (563914) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:41AM (#6095726) Homepage Journal
    But that doesn't mean they have to push Windows solutions, since they're really more into a full on research program looking at computing theory, a level up from the "let's bash MS about their desktop and server dominance strategies" - both these guys have long histories in the Internet and networking and clustering, worked on PDP-10s and their ancestors, etc.

    From the MS site, the Bay Area Research Center is "... a small Microsoft Research group located in the San Francisco Bay Area. We've been working on two large projects with other universities, companies, other Microsoft Research groups, and with Microsoft product groups in Redmond and Cupertino. These projects are Scalable Servers and Media Presence. "

    I can't see scalability involving commodity hardware with MS OSes. In spite of Microsoft's desktop domination strategies, and small business server dominance (arguably, at least for the moment) they know they won't be taken seriously about clustering Windows 2003 server, purely because there is no design AFAIK in the kernel for operating in clusters in the first place. This is supercomputing using commodity hardware, not supercrashing using commodity OSes. Linux is perfectly situated to be recommended by anyone because it is not a competitors product, per se.

    The homepages of the two men can be seen here, if anyone is interested in some of the more interesting history of the two. Little of it has to do with Microsoft propaganda and the marketing machine:-

    Gordon Bell [microsoft.com]
    Jim Gray [microsoft.com]

  • by afidel (530433) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:45AM (#6095762)
    By rewriting existing scientific programs, they say, researchers will be able to get powerful computing from inexpensive clusters of personal computers that are running the free Linux software operating system.
    "The supercomputer vendors are adamant that I am wrong," Dr. Bell said. "But the Beowulf is a Volkswagen and these people are selling trucks."


    All the people who are responding saying they don't mention Linux didn't read the second page.
  • Username/Password (Score:5, Informative)

    by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:45AM (#6095765) Homepage
    I saw that it could be google too, but anyhow, I made a username/password for y'all:

    slashdot124
    slashdot

    Be wary however, I registered as a North Korean military R&D official under high salary.
  • by elwinc (663074) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:47AM (#6095783)
    One of the big reasons for using supercomputers over the past decade or more has been to simulate nuclear explosions. When we (the USA) simulate weapons instead of testing them, it allows us to lead by example when we argue for a ban on nuclear tests. Because simulation is technically challenging, it slows down nuclear proliferation. It's a creative form of deterrence.

    All this for the price of a few supercomputers every year. And the market for supercomputers pushes several technologies; for example, high speed interconnect and gallium arsenide, and sets the bar for high performance silicon. Pretty good deal, doncha think?

    But now the Moron-in-Chief wants to bring back nuclear testing. [reuters.com] (pardon me, 'nookyuler.' Bush can't be wrong about something as simple as pronunciation, can he?). Farewell to deterrence. Farewell to common sense...

  • They didn't advocate.

    They simply spotted a trend, and suggested that BECAUSE of it (because of the use of Beowulf clusters of Linux machines), the focus of research should be on large data storage.
  • money would be better spent on massive storage instead of ultra-fast computers

    Of course, I agree fully with this arguement.

    How else are we going to store all that pr0n?

    Oh, yeah and the other data too.

    .
  • http://www.research.microsoft.com/~Gray/talks/CSTB _SuperComputing_Study_Group.ppt
  • I'm surprised the government is still funding old-fashioned "Supercomputers" though. Well no, I guess I'm not. They're still subsidising helium [webleyweb.com] production, so why not supercomputers?

    Seems like everyone who needs tons of power has been doing Beowulf clusters for years. Wish the government would catch up.

  • Data Rules! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imnoteddy (568836) on Monday June 02, 2003 @10:58AM (#6095882)
    I attended a talk given by Jim Gray on the subject of "Databases Meet Astronomy" about a year ago. He gives a lot of talks [microsoft.com] on databases and science. He talked about sky surveys generating petabytes of data. The VLBA radio observatory generates 1 gigabyte per second. Much of the data mining could be accomplished with a google type model of lots of machines working on pieces of the problem.

    He also talked about CERN generating 10 PetaBytes a year when their new collider comes on line

    Supercomputers are sexy, but are losing the technology war. If you start designing a new one today it will be years before it is ready. During those years Intel and AMD will crank up their clock speeds and negate much if not all of the CPU speed advantage you get from your fancy design. Why not go for parallelism from cheap machines?

  • It's not happened in 20 years so far.

    I've seen code running on a supercomputer which was first written for a VAX. The authors were long gone but nobody could afford the rewrite.
  • Massive data storage doesn't mean a thing to people like me who do computational physics work. We need better supercomputers to simulate larger systems... or simulate them faster. Sure, we can simulate a system of 300,000 particles within a few hours, but there could be great value in simulating systems of millions of particles. Maybe there is some effect that we miss... or something.

    Anyway, data storage is not a problem in MY field -- and I would think that government interests in supercomputing lie in pl
  • According to this a "beowulf" is a cluster of cheap computers, NOT a cluster of cheap LINUX computers. I don't think Microsoft is advocating Linux, as much as I/you/we wish they were... http://www.phy.duke.edu/brahma/beowulf_online_book /node61.html
  • Redmond, Washington -- In a move related to the announcement of Linux for clustering, or large supercomputing projects, Microsoft has announced a new version of Windows XP, which supports up to 200 CPUs. The Highly-SMP version of XP is however, limied by the fact that all 200 CPUs must be on the same motherboard.

    "200 CPUs should be enough for anybody." Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was quoted as saying.

    Steven Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, contributed the following: "Developers, Developers, Developers, Develo
  • Why Vs.? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xchino (591175) on Monday June 02, 2003 @11:20AM (#6096034)
    I agree to the point that money should be spent on data storage, but I'm not sure that money should be taken out of the "super computing" budget or wherever the money comes from. I think it should be another priority, but really, we need both. Clusters aren't the solution to every problem, and super computers have their place. All in all I think it amounts to we need more government spending in the IT sector, and better spending in general. The ISP where I work at is also a geological data and oil resevoir company. We recently did a project for the DOE and they budgeted us $2 Mil. just for a web page about the project. Ridiculous. That $2 Million would buy a pretty nice data storage center I would think. But I guess that's what happens when your govt pays $500 for a hammer.
  • We have 2 Linux clusters here at NCSA already, with a third in progress. See:
    The Titan Cluster [uiuc.edu]
    The Platinum Cluster [uiuc.edu]
    TeraGrid Clusters Successfully Installed at NCSA [teragrid.org]
    These clusters run either RedHat or SuSE Linux and are available for researchers nationwide.

    These clusters are not beowulf; they allow access through a general scheduler and have MPI [anl.gov] to run programs that use a group of nodes at once. This gives the greatest flexability to the users to create a computational system that can be optimz

  • Skimming the article gave me the sense that either the reporter's ideas or those of Bell and Gray are just all over the map.

    One fact not mentioned is that planning for storage is already an integral part of planning a supercomputing center. Also not mentioned is another predictable outcome that generating lots of data eventually requires someone, or some thing (e.g., a beowulf cluster), to analyse it. Thus, under the present trends, data mining itself as well as development of method of *how* to data-mi
  • I am sympathetic to the core arguement about super data centers and that Beowulf clusters are allowing great strides in clustering computing power. I do think that pursuits along both super-data and super-computer paths are worthwhile. Both paths can feed off each other and both have problem types which they excel at.
  • huh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by nomel (244635) <turd@[ ]rbit.com ['ino' in gap]> on Monday June 02, 2003 @12:22PM (#6096527) Homepage Journal
    "...a pair of Microsoft researchers..."
    "They advocate building cheap Linux-based Beowulf clusters..."

    come on guys...June 2nd, not April 1st.

Computers will not be perfected until they can compute how much more than the estimate the job will cost.

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