Speakng of SGI Altix... (was Re: [Bioclusters] Fwd: pre-configured clusters)

Chris Dagdigian bioclusters@bioinformatics.org
Thu, 29 Jan 2004 21:28:54 -0500

Anyone have an Altix 350 that I can SSH into for a few hours to run the 
IBT benchmark suite (http://bioteam.net/ibt/ -- shameless plug yessiree)

I've been using HP's testdrive servers to work with Itanium2 and Alpha 
boxes and am still looking for some sort of online Altix resource to 
gather some data from. I was hoping that SGI had a similar 'test our 
servers online' type program.

The SGI booth people blew me off at Linux World NYC { well actually they 
did not know of any online Altix 350 boxes and told me to run along and 
go through their normal sales channels }

Figured it was worth a shot to ask here...


Robert Myers wrote:

> Jeffrey B. Layton wrote:
>> Robert Myers wrote:
>>> "The SGI Altix 350 is priced starting at $12,199. A 4-processor 
>>> configuration carries at a list price of $21,599, or $5,400 per 
>>> processor. " 
>> I will agree/disagree. It depends upon your application(s). Some will
>> run faster on the Altix, some won't. Test your application on both
>> and then do the price/performance.
>> Personally, if you need a single-system image machine and you know
>> you are not going to grow the machine, then the 350 is a great deal.
>> Otherwise, look at clusters. I think the Xserve deserves a second look
>> as does the IBM 970 (same thing really). Also look at the Xeon
>> nodes and the Opteron nodes. I think the Opterons are especially
>> promising.
> The directly comparable Xserver 455 from IBM lists for at least twice as 
> much per processor, not counting added cost if you want infiniband-type 
> performance for more than one box.  That is not to say that Xeon or 
> Opteron boxes in the Xserver series might not be a better buy for some 
> applications.  If you're consdering IBM, be sure to have a quote on a 
> 350 to show to the IBM salesman.  At a minimum, you will probably get a 
> better price.
>>> The Apple cluster comes standard with gigabit ethernet: an acceptable 
>>> interconnect only for a limited number of problems. The SGI uses 
>>> proprietary Numa-Link, which is at least competitive with Infiniband, 
>>> a much faster and much more expensive solution than gigabit ethernet, 
>>> but the Altix 350 looks like a really good buy, especially if you're 
>>> looking for a pre-packaged solution. 
>> I don't see anything wrong with GigE at all. Again, it depends upon
>> your application. If you need a highbandwidth low latency interconnect
>> then something like IB, Myrinet, Quadrics, or Dolphin are the way to go.
>> If you need single system image, then NUMAflex is the way to go
>> (just a small correction - the SGI website and literatures refers to 
>> it as
>> NUMAflex, not NUMA-Link). 
> As you can tell, the amyloid plaque is already showing its effects, so 
> there is not a moment to lose.
>> Believe it or not, my main application
>> scales very well with Fast Ethernet (over 90% scaling for at least 300
>> processors). It's not a Bio application, but some bio apps aren't even
>> really parallel apps at all - just HUGE amounts of serial processing with
>> varying data sets. 
> Agreed that not everything needs a low latency, high-bandwidth 
> interconnect.  For those who do, and who want a pre-packaged solution, 
> the Altix 350 just happens to be what appears to be an exceptional buy 
> at the moment, as compared to other prepackaged low-latency, 
> high-bandwidth solutions currently on the market.
>> Oh, another thing about NUMAflex, it's not the same across their
>> product line. While I can't confirm this, I was told that the Altix
>> 350 had a ring type connection for NUMAflex. The larger and more
>> expensive machines had a fat-tree type connection for NUMAflex.
>> If you're going this route, be sure to ask (and be sure to test!). 
> Altix 3700 has a very expensive two-plane, fat tree switched NUMAflex 
> network.  The Altix 350, which scales up to 16 processors under a single 
> system image, uses a ring NUMAflex network as does the Altix 3300.  From 
> usenet posts made by someone associated with SGI, I infer that the boxes 
> have pairs of Itania sitting on a standard Intel processor bus sharing a 
> memory controller.  An eight processor configuration involves at most 
> three NUMAflex hops, from the ASCII-art diagram he posted.  No one has 
> ever said so officially, but I am sure you can cluster the single-image 
> clusters, but to do that you have to start buying stuff like router 
> bricks.  The 350 is likely to be most attractive to people who want 
> relatively uniform access to large datasets in memory with a relatively 
> modest number of processors.
> RM
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Chris Dagdigian, <dag@sonsorol.org>
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