A Supercomputer in Every Garage - Cringely

Marc

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From: http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20011227.html

What I Want for Christmas
A Supercomputer in Every Garage!
By Robert X. Cringely

Reality has lately been a little too REAL for me. The economy is tanking, we're at war, the national and international situations simply cry out for escape, denial, and delusion. Why worry when you can nerd out, instead? That's when I decided that what I really wanted for Christmas was my very own supercomputer. Doesn't everyone?

Ignoring for the moment the pressing question of why any individual would actually need a supercomputer, I prefer to revel in the fact that it is even possible to have one. We live at a time when processor and memory prices are at historic lows allowing enormous amounts of computing power to be accumulated in the back bedrooms of houses like mine. The minute I realized that I could have a supercomputer, I had to have one. But would Santa come through? Given all the poor children in the world far more deserving of gifts, I decided to take the obligation from Santa's shoulders and build the supercomputer myself.

Building a supercomputer these days is pretty much a matter of throwing a lot of processors and memory into a big box or boxes, then finding some cheap clustering OS (usually Linux) to make it all work together. My role model in this venture is KLAT2, the Kentucky Linux Athlon Testbed 2, which in a recent ranking came up as the 200th most powerful supercomputer on the planet. I love the idea of a supercomputer from Kentucky, but I love even more the clever design of KLAT2, which is a cluster of 64 PCs each running a 700-MHz Athlon processor for a total of more than 64 gigaflops of number-crunching power. Built by University of Kentucky graduate students led by professor Hank Dietz, KLAT2 cost only $41,000, which is cheap for a supercomputer.
 
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