Crunching Numbers, Two Ways

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2002-12-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oil-exploration firm CGG Americas replaced its supercomputers with a cluster of several thousand personal computers linked by specialized networking software. Here's one view of how the alternatives stack up.

Oil-exploration firm CGG Americas replaced its supercomputers with a cluster of several thousand personal computers linked by specialized networking software. Here's one view of how the alternatives stack up.

 
Silicon Graphics Origin 3000

Cluster of Dell Computer PCs
Architecture Symmetric multiprocessing, where many processors share a single operating system and access each other's memory Parallel processing, where a computing job is split among many processors that each have their own operating system and memory
"
Cost of system $2.9 million $2 million
Number of processors 128 1,024
Cost per processor $22,656 $1,953
System memory 256 gigabytes Up to 2 terabytes
Pluses Designed specifically for scientific applications that do highly complex modeling

All processors can communicate quickly with all other processors, which means certain computing jobs can be done very quickly
Relatively low cost of ownership

Distributed architecture decreases risk that a single processor failure will stop entire job

Power can be added incrementally

Often uses Linux, a hot technology for which skilled workers are readily found
Minuses Processor failure can halt an entire computing job

Adding power generally adds expense: another $2.9 million machine

Experienced technicians hard to find
Setup and configuration often take several weeks

Overall performance can be negatively affected by speed of the network connecting the processors

Constant monitoring of individual parts is necessary; more parts means more potential points of failure

Large physical space required as cluster grows; additional air conditioning and electric power are sometimes needed


 
 
 
 
Senior Writer
Kim_Nash@ziffdavisenterprise.com
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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