Building your own super computer? Beware of hidden costs


Building your own super computer is relatively easy and cheaper than buying one “out of the crate”. Particularly if you stick to generic/used parts. It is the running costs that will hurt you.

The home built “super computer” is all about networked processing. A bunch of processors controlled by a single operating system, linked via a network. The software is free. Even if the hardware isn’t, you can pick scrounge up old parts. Way back in 2003, Glen Gardner built what was briefly the 106th fastest machine in the world.

From his experience it seems that the two main costs are Electricity and hardware burnout. Both stem from the fact that the beast needs to be kept running all the time. Electricity supply has to be kept clean and steady. Something of a challenge in a country with power cuts. Even Glen who lives in the 1st world had to invest in regulator gear. I think a Sri Lankan super computer builder/owner would need something more substantial. Which would be in addition to the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and standby generator. While we are at it how about an air-conditioner to keep out the dust and the humidity.

Hardware burn-outs is another consequence of all that intensive processing. You’ll be hot swapping not too cheap components at an unhappy clip. At least its getting cheaper and cleaner to run. Tim Brom managed to build a portable supercomputer for a relatively cheaply.

Towering over all these petty concerns is the question Why build your own super computer? I naturally don’t have the answer to such a silly question since I’m quite happy with my little Mac Mini. Hopefully you’ll have a better answer than “its cool” or “because I can”. Here’s a hint – quantum physics is such a expensive hobby these days. If you do I hope you are not discouraged by my lazy little post. You won’t be alone. Places like clustermonkey caters to the home brew super-computing crowd.

Happy super computing🙂 and do let us about your rig.

4 comments

  1. This is quite an easy answer.. YOU NEED A SUPER COMPUTER TO PROCESS AND STORE ALL YOUR MOVES🙂

    hehehe

    besides.. imagine what a big chick magnet it would be.. the conversation would go something like this

    super computer owner: hey babe.. guess what? i have my own super computer.
    girl: huh?
    super computer owner: yeah.. i build it my self. you want to come over and see it?
    girl: …….
    🙂

    Like

  2. Good to see you writing about these stuff! Having my hands (fingers) on the fastest (now it is the second fastest😦 since last month) we crave for power, every where we go. But we have about 300 desktops (If you call 4-16 processor computers desktops) at our department attached to an office grid. Sometimes this grid is much faster than most supercomputers around. Anyway the servers I mentioned in your desktop challenge, has two quad core processors in them, basically they are supers! I picked motherboards up for less than or about $1000 each, including processors. Last winter I did not have heater on in the section I have computers. That is an entire floor!

    Like

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