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The HP Z800
In the mind of Transtec’s HPC specialist
Oliver Tennert, HPC focuses on the
application, not the system itself; HPC
denotes the goal. He adds that you can’t
simply take off-the-shelf components and
build an HPC system; it requires special
software and, in the case of a GPU card,
also a compiler.
It’s reasonable to assume that nobody
will ever have the fastest computer at any
point in time on their desk, comments
Herb Schultz, Deep Computing manager
at IBM. The question instead becomes
whether a user can run computationally
intensive applications that fit within
certain constraints – budgets, being in the
office environment (low noise, low heat,
line power) and having easy-to-manage
HPC colonises
systems that are standardised and thus run
commercial applications.
Who needs desktop HPC?
the desktop
Which users are most likely to use desktop
HPC? According to Ian Miller, senior
VP of sales and marketing for Cray’s
Productivity Solutions Group, such systems
have become particularly affordable and are
very attractive for, among others:
Computers are continuing along their astounding path
l an engineering team looking for its first
down the price/performance curve to the point where
you can literally put the power of what we not long ago
l scientists/engineers hitting the limits of
PC performance;
considered a supercomputer on or beside your desk in
l a software developer looking for a
an office environment. Paul Schreier reviews some of
dedicated system for development and
these powerful systems
l a design/simulation project that is just
starting but needs room to grow.
esktop HPC, personal In short, it must have the ability to expand In this regard, Steve Conway, research
supercomputers, personal its infrastructure to accommodate large VP for HPC at market research firm IDC,
workstations, whatever you call amounts of memory, disk storage, powerful points out that users are moving into this
them, there’s no standard definition of graphics for visualisation and possibly cards class of system both top-down (where users
what they are. But most suppliers generally with a GPGPU (general-purpose graphical want immediate access to considerable
agree on what they aren’t: standard office processing units). He also suggests that you power rather than waiting to have their
PCs. Simply having lots of cores just isn’t not forget about something as mundane as jobs scheduled on a cluster) and bottom-up
enough of a boost for the applications the power supply. Office PCs might have a (such as a small engineering-services firm
where desktop HPC is generally applied: 300W supply, but when you consider that where the customer says ‘here’s the part we
typically in engineering design, analysis and a high-end graphics card alone might need want’, but the company can’t get the work
visualisation. And as you’ll see in this report, 250W and the processor can easily need done efficiently on a standard office PC). In
desktop HPC involves not only the familiar more than 100W, the problems are obvious. addition, rather than classify desktop HPC
tower form factor, but also small racks that Thus, for instance, HP’s Z800 system comes by number of cores or other features, IDC
accommodate blades and that are designed with an 1,100W supply. And while it can categorises these systems as those selling
to sit beside a desk in an office environment. run on standard line voltage and without in the range between $10k and $100k.
HP refers to this class of system simply any special cooling – which makes it easy to According to IDC, sales for this segment in
as a ‘workstation’, and Jeff Wood, director place anywhere in an office environment – 2008 were $1.96bn, and despite the global
of worldwide marketing for workstations, there is a water-cooling option in the event recession that number should grow to
notes some key differences from office PCs. you want to keep fan noise to a minimum. $2.7bn by 2013. ➤ SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009
SCWoct09 pp26-31 HPC desktop.indd 27 10/1/09 12:46:58 PM
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