Using measured performance on systems such as RoadRunner and LosLobos,
we can make good estimates of the price performance ratios for various
systems that we could construct. These estimates are based on component
prices at PriceWatch on October 31,
2000. Each bare-bones node is configured with 64 MB of ECC memory (quite
lean) and a 4.3 GB hard drive. Additional memory should be available now
for <$1/MB. A RoadRunner style node has 450 MHz PII processors and a LosLobos
style node has 733 MHz PIII processors. Node costs are summarized below.
Fast Ethernet is the commodity network, but the switch prices do not scale
linearly with size. The sweet spot is 24-40 ports. Myrinet, is more expensive
and has higher performance. Up to 128 ports, it's price does scale linearly
with the number of ports. The quotes I have gotten for Giganet (some time
ago) were not price competetive. I have been told that QSnet would cost
about $3,000 - $3,500 per port.
Using measured performance on RoadRunner and Los Lobos, we can predict
the cost effectiveness of these systems and compare with supercomputers.
A caveat about the supercomputers is that many of these quotes are old
(and you may be able to negotiate a better discount).