%T Commodity High Performance Computing at Commodity Prices
%A Simon J. Cox, Denis A. Nicole, Kenji Takeda
%E Peter H. Welch, André W. P. Bakkers
%B Proceedings of WoTUG\-21: Architectures, Languages and Patterns for Parallel and Distributed Applications
%X The entry price of supercomputing has traditionally been
very high. As processing elements, operating systems, and
switch technology become cheap commodity parts, building a
powerful supercomputer at a fraction of the price of a
proprietrary system becomes realistic. We have recently
purchased, in support of both our local and national
collaborations, a dedicated computational cluster of eight
DEC Alpha workstations. Each node has a 500MHz AXP 21164A
processor with 256Mb memory running Windows NT 4.0 and cost
under 6000 pounds. They are connected by 100Mb/s switched
ethernet. In this paper we discuss some of the issues raised
by our choice of processor, operating system and
interconnection network. The results we present indicate
that the cluster is fully competitive with systems from
major vendors for a wide range of engineering and science
applications, and at a lower cost by at least a factor of
three. Indeed the only current area of under\-performance
relative to these vendors\[rs] high\-end offerings is the
inter\-node network bandwidth and latency. We give some
initial results indicating how the network performance might
be improved under Windows NT.
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