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Sun Grid Compute Utility 185

jbltgz writes "The Register is reporting that the long awaited Sun Grid Compute Utility has been opened to the public. Now you can run your CPU intensive jobs on a grid of AMD Opteron-based Sun Hardware for $1 per CPU per hour for a fraction of cost, in a fraction of the time."
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Sun Grid Compute Utility

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  • by ZzzzSleep ( 606571 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:46PM (#14975823) Homepage Journal
    How long will it be until botnet operators start up a similar service? Or am I out of date and they have already done this? Anyway kudos to Sun for offering this service.

  • POVRay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:46PM (#14975825) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how long it would take for someone to port the POVRay engine to Sun's grid? At $1 per CPU/hour, this could be a boon for amatuer 3D graphics designers and the Internet Ray Tracing [irtc.org] competitors. Use low res renders during testing, then pay Sun $25 to get your high quality result back in 20 minutes rather than the next day. Could be a lot of fun. :-)

    Can anyone think of other good uses for the average (or not so average) home user? Perhaps new image compression formats that rely on Sun's Grid to get the best compression/quality tradeoffs through brute-force power?
    • Best use of Sun's grid: playing Duke Nukem Forever, thats why it has been delayed so long, honest
    • Re:POVRay (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, now that you asked, you can use all that computing power to...

      Compile gentoo with KDE in only 20hrs

      Browse 10 pages in Firefox

      Run Windows XP Pro AND Notepad at the same time

      Get 20FPS in BF2

      Run a "Hello World" java applet
      • Re:POVRay (Score:3, Funny)

        by dkf ( 304284 )

        Well, now that you asked, you can use all that computing power to...

        • Compile gentoo with KDE in only 20hrs
        • Browse 10 pages in Firefox
        • Run Windows XP Pro AND Notepad at the same time
        • Get 20FPS in BF2
        • Run a "Hello World" java applet

        Actually, only the compilation stands a chance of working as it is the only one that can work well as a batch job. The others require some kind of interactive display hardware in there, and you can bet you won't have that in the public offering. (Maybe you can get it from the top-end

    • Re:POVRay (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually someone from SGI ported POV Ray to MPI about 4 years ago:

      http://www.verrall.demon.co.uk/mpipov/ [demon.co.uk]

      There is also a PVM version as well.

      http://www-mddsp.enel.ucalgary.ca/People/adilger/p ovray/pvmpov.html [ucalgary.ca]

      For one of my graduate classes I am MPI enabling the latest povray source based on Leon Verrall, Andreas Dilger, & Brad Klines previous work mentioned above.

    • POV has been parallelized for years. Believe it or not there is even a sourceforge project for it.

      • POV has been parallelized for years.

        Right you are! I found this version [uni-potsdam.de] of POVRay that supports DRMAA rendering. So it looks like all that is required is a recompile for Solaris AMD64, and it'll be good to go! :-)
    • Sorry to reply to myself, but Sun actually suggsted a pretty good use in their FAQ: "Entertainment/Media (digital content creation, animation,rendering,digital asset management)"

      Perhaps this could be used for video encoding? Certainly, many users would probably encode movies they intend to illegally redistribute, but that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of users who are looking to make a DVD (eventually Blu-Ray) of their home videos or amatuer movies. Sun's grid could potentially compress all the movi
      • I might pay for CPU time if there were a mythtv plugin that used the sun grid to transcode content. Getting many many gigs of data to and from the sun machines might be an issue tho.
      • The time it'd take to send/upload the content would probably be longer than if you just plunked down and did it yourself on any relatively new computer.

        The only way it'd make sense is if you have a lot of video to compress and even then, over the long term it might still make sense to buy a cheapo computer or two & DIY.
      • It would probably be cheaper to just buy a quad-core system and a copy of cinema craft encoder (assuming DVD, and MPEG2.) As it is, it takes less than 24 hours to make a multi-pass (say, 3 passes) VBR MPEG2 movie at DVD resolution.
      • I think the 10GB disk space limit kills that for now.
  • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:46PM (#14975827)
    We're not having you modelling your nukes on our servers thankyouverymuch.
  • Details please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:47PM (#14975831) Homepage
    The ability to but powerful computing time is a cool idea that has been featured in several sci-fi novels. However the article fails to mention exactly how powerful these Sun CPUs are. How much bang do you get for your buck? They also fail to mention how hard it will be to write code for this platform. Can I simply send them some standard C source, or will I have to code using some special extensions that will make my code totally unportable and thus lock me into buying more and more time from them?
    • And also, how do you get the data to them?

      At work, we find couriering HDDs to have awesome bandwidth.
      • If you RTFM, you upload apps and data in zip files (limited to 100MB each and 10GB total).
      • I worked for a video production company once, a while back...we did a contract job for a local web development company, and one of the video guys was explaining how we did film editing (which involved having the film transferred to some sort of intermediate editing format, working on that to produce timecoded video, editing that and sending it back for printing):

        Video Guy: "So yeah, they take all the film, and put it on video for us to edit; of course now they send it to us digitally, and we send it back--
      • You send your 100GB of data over a 56K modem line.... After a couple of weeks your data will get there, then it will finish running super fffffast, (no, really!), and in about another couple of weeks you'll get it back.

        I think they should just add a service where people could deliver or snail mail dual layer dvds or tapes with data, with a set of new dvds or tapes for results. One can overnight it with Fedex. Then, they run the program on the grid, load up the result on another set of dvds or tapes and ove

        • I think they should just add a service where people could deliver or snail mail dual layer dvds or tapes with data, with a set of new dvds or tapes for results. One can overnight it with Fedex. Then, they run the program on the grid, load up the result on another set of dvds or tapes and overnight them back to you.

          If you change "DVD" and "tapes" for "punch card" in your sentence, you are describing computing as it was known 30 years ago.

    • TFA and Sun's site are low on details, but I imagine they run Solaris. So if you compile for that OS (which is binary compatible between recent versions) or, more likely, usa Java, you should be fine.

    • Re:Details please (Score:3, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *
      However the article fails to mention exactly how powerful these Sun CPUs are. How much bang do you get for your buck?

      Sun claims that they are "dual-core Sun Fire, Opertron servers". That means that they are likely to be something like the V20z [sun.com] which range from 2.0 GHz to 2.2 GHz. It would be nice if they were a bit more specific (e.g. how do you know they'll upgrade the grid in the future?), but their FAQ makes it sound like they're relying on Solaris CPU stats to charge you. OS stats like that are usually
    • Basically you can run any application that runs on Solaris. You will also have to use the Sun N1 Grid Engine to make it run on many processors in parallel. As the article says, there are already companies that are using it to carry out certain tasks. Besides using the Grid Engine software, I suppose you could safely assume a POSIX environment.
      • So with that in mind:
        does anyone have a version of VOBSUB that runs on Solaris 10 (and does it scale beyond 2 cores well)?
        I can see it now: upload a DVD in an encrypted volume as your dataset, have a decryption/encryption wrapper around vobsub and output an encrypted MP4 as your results file.
        Batch up your movies and away you go. Sun will even handle the distrobution of the MP4 as you simply place the download path and password on the net :-)

        Betcha it happens (sooner or later) ;) ;)
    • Re:Details please (Score:3, Informative)

      by dslauson ( 914147 )
      Here's a link to an FAQ [sun.com] on Sun's site.

      Any code that can be compiled and tested on Solaris 10 can be run on the grid. However, to get the benefit of parallel execution (meaning running parts of a job on multiple processors at the same time), which is really the main benefit of running on a grid like this, you must either write multi-threaded code, or you must use the MPI library, which is pretty much the standard these days for scientific and parallel computing.

    • Re:Details please (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Their FAQ says their nodes have two single-core Opterons and 4GB of RAM per cpu. I would guess they're using their own X4100 servers with AMD Opteron 254 (2.8GHz). Don't quote me, I don't work for Sun.

      From their FAQ [sun.com]:

      Q: What parallel environments (pvm, mpi, etc.) are available for use on the Sun Grid Utility Services?

      A: MPICH v1.2.6, an open implementation of the "Message Passing Interface" is the only parallel environment currently supported on the Sun Grid. MPICH is configured to leverage IP-based

    • Re:Details please (Score:3, Informative)

      by MK_CSGuy ( 953563 )
      From the FAQ [sun.com]:

      18. Q:
      What are the basic minimum technical requirements to run an application on the Sun Grid Compute Utility?
      The following requirements must be met:
      Application must run on Solaris 10 (x64).
      User must own the application or have proper legal licenses to run applications on the Sun Grid Compute Utility.
      Applications must be scripted to work with N1 Grid Engine software.
      Application must be self-contained, with no dependencies on external libraries or data sets
      Application and data sets tot
  • by DrDitto ( 962751 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:48PM (#14975839)
    I use grid computing for simulations. If I were charged for CPU-hours, you can bet I would be more careful about debugging. I've wasted thousands of CPU hours because of bugs, or sloppy configuration, in my simulator generating incorrect results. One bug was an infinite loop that resulted in 100 CPUs spinning for a week before I noticed!
    • Have you considered testing on a smaller dataset/serverset?
    • Holy crap am I jealous that you could have 100 CPU's maxxed for a week and not notice.

      And holy crap it's lame that that makes me as jealous as it does.
    • One bug was an infinite loop that resulted in 100 CPUs spinning for a week before I noticed!

      Your bill would have been $16,800 for that infinite loop.
      • Your bill would have been $16,800 for that infinite loop.
        As it stands, the mistake may have cost his company more or less than that; we don't know (and probably neither do they). The only real question is whether you can provide CPU time cheaper than Sun will sell it to you.

        Personally, I think $1/CPU hour is a reasonable place to start. Maybe they'll let the price float with demand in the future.

    • One bug was an infinite loop that resulted in 100 CPUs spinning for a week before I noticed!
      Add a cat and some buttered toast and pretty soon we're talking 'bout a black hole, baby!
    • Back in the day, I worked for the World Bank writing software on IBM mainframes. Our department was charged back based on our usage. I worked in the telecommunications division and we, like the IBM division, charged departments for their telephone usage. To do this, we'd load the call logs into SQL and then create the bills from that. Our database contained millions of phone calls over the previous year+ of data.

      During development, I made the mistake of doing an unqualified join between the primary call tab
    • can I ahve your resume, just in case.*

    • One bug was an infinite loop that resulted in 100 CPUs spinning for a week before I noticed!

      How did you have 100 processors maxs out for a week without knowing?
  • How's this work? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:48PM (#14975842)
    Is it like getting an account on someone's server and then being able to do whatever the hell compute-intensive work you want? I can't seem to find the relavent details, or my Parkinson disease is kicking in.
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMpitabred.dyndns.org> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:48PM (#14975843) Homepage
    Imagine a beowulf cluster of... oh, forget it
  • Do you (the customer) supply the software to run on these distributed boxen?

    Cause if that's the case, I can see a business model that involves lophtcrack or John the Ripper.
  • by scenestar ( 828656 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:53PM (#14975888) Homepage Journal
    Casual Sun observers will be scratching their heads right about now, believing that Sun had already announced such a service a long time ago. That's correct.

    rtfa kthnx
  • Free demo here... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:54PM (#14975894) Homepage Journal
    Click here [network.com] to kick off a job on Sun's Compute Grid consisting of AMD Opteron-based Sun Hardware.
  • The CPU is cheap, but you'll be paying an arm and a leg for "extras" like disk storage and memory.

    Want a printout of your results? That's $100 per page . . .
    • But the CPU being cheap is the point. Not everyone wants to set up their own cluster, but lots of people could use a cluster periodically, and would do so more often if it was relatively cheap. Sun is basically catering to them.
      I mean, a small-ish game developer could pre-compute a lot of data on the grid without having to invest in their own hardware and expertise and time for a less-capable solution, all kinds of things really.
    • In the FAQ
      http://www.sun.com/service/sungrid/faq.xml#q24 [sun.com]

      They mention that (for a limited time) you get a max of 10GB of storage (for 180 days!) and that each box has 4GB per CPU.

      So... maybe in the future, you'll pay extra for disk storage, but RAM will always be 4GB per CPU
  • by boldtbanan ( 905468 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:00PM (#14975944)
    I wonder if I can play games on Sun's system. Perhaps a nice game of chess? Or maybe Global Thermonuclear War?
  • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:02PM (#14975959) Journal
    From their FAQ:

    What are the components of the Sun Grid Compute Utility?
    The Sun Grid Compute Utility service consists of the following parts:

            * Sun Fire dual processor Opteron-based servers with 4GB/RAM per CPU
            * Solaris 10 (x64)
            * Solaris 10 OS;
            * Sun N1 Grid Engine 6 software;
            * Grid Network Infrastructure of 1Gb switched Data Network and 100 Mb dedicated management network;
            * Web-based access portal; and
            * Internet-only access to upload data and applications (no physical access to location);
            * Storage allocation of up to 10 GB per user account.

    http://www.sun.com/service/sungrid/faq.xml [sun.com]
    • Their network seems to be a pretty basic 1Gb network. If you want to do parallel jobs that need really fast communication, this will not be suitable for you.

      Let them put infiniband on those systems and it becomes interesting. In the meantime I'd say it's nice for single CPU jobs only.

  • by Zangief ( 461457 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:02PM (#14975960) Homepage Journal
    Wasn't their previous attempt to rent CPUs a failure?

    I remember an article in slashdot about how the Sun grid was completely unused.
  • The Sun is setting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:02PM (#14975964)

    Wow, $1/CPU/hr. Same price as an MP3 off of iTunes, so it must be worthwhile, right?

    OK, we are only about 3.5 months into the year of 2006, and lets look at some real data:

    I run a few small to medium sized HPC clusters, and on one of them, here are the CPU hours used during 2006 -- 163,000+ this is on less than $500k of hardware that is years old. That would cost $163k just in computing time, not to include time to port applications, debug, etc.

    Sun needs to be run by engineers and visionaries again, not by marketers. $1/CPU/hr is not going to do much better on those falling stock prices than selling $200 Linux PCs in Wal-Mart.

    • It gets even better when you consider that Sun's smaller Opteron kit starts at about 2k$/node. So, if you need more than a few months' processing, you can just buy the boxes and build the infrastructure for about the same cost.

      I suspect the real selling points are:
      - Sun's service is probably straightforward for app developers.
      - The hardware is essentially "infinite."
      - "Oh, you need a month's worth of processing done by next Monday? We'll have it done Saturday night, if you'd like to pick it up then, ma'am
    • The whole point of this was stated by John Schwartz when the idea first came up. This is moslty for the market of people who only do massive number crunching on a few occasions but often enough that they would maintain their own computing cluster. Now, these same people can get rid of the hardware, people, power, cooling, and lab space and the other costs associated with maintaing a cluster and just worry about paying for CPU time the few occasions they actually need it. And if suddenly you have an imme
    • This is all good with todays horsepower but what kind of company is going to upgrade a system like this in the famous 18 month period.

      If Mores law holds true Suns revenue will half evrey 18 months, so the question is, is this permanent? Will they find new things to burn clocks? Or will they try to corner the market and still try to charge $1 according to a 2GHz machine.

      The only way I could see this working is if they charge by clock rather than time and charge very little, this way you pay the same am
  • I mean, hell, here's 10TB of data that I'm currently backing up to tape.

    Do you want me to package it as a J2EE WAR file? Fine!
  • by c0l0 ( 826165 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:04PM (#14975982) Homepage
    if it boasted a 64bit Java VM. A mate of mine does some very interesting research in number theory, and a few of his applications would need massive amounts of fast addressable memory. 64bit of address space would conveniently suffice, i suppose. Any suggestions on what else (cheap, or at least affordable) to consider using, anyone?
  • Ok, so (Score:3, Funny)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:12PM (#14976060) Homepage
    where do I submit my deck of fortran punch-cards and where do I pickup the printout?

  • This sounds familar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [45ttam.yrrep]> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:30PM (#14976184)
    I thought that Sun already had their grid available and that no one wanted to use it [slashdot.org] because they would have to agree to be in a marketing campaign. Is this still the case? The terms of service on the network.com site redirects to an error page.
  • by OlivierB ( 709839 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:41PM (#14976297)
    If I could compile mencode/mplayer for Solaris I could upload my dvd isos and get sun to encode these for me in H264 for my HTPC.
    I anticipate that each film would cost me ~$2. Not bad. Is that a safe bet? ANybody know what disk space they give for "personal files".
    Now to explain to my ISP that I am not participating in illegal file sharing with +100GB per month of traffic is not going to be easy..

    More seriously, I could use this to run some of my Monte-Carlo simulators..
  • by gfody ( 514448 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @07:51PM (#14976888)
    Like seti or folding@home except instead of donating your spare cpu cycles for one particular task you'd be making them available for anyone to rent?

    The price per hour per cpu could be based on demand and could be distributed to all the contributers. Imagine all the processing power out there not being used. Especially the gpus on people's video cards while they're not playing games.
  • CPUShare (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PenGun ( 794213 )
    Oh please. We have cpu time for 10c an hour over at Andrea Arcangeli's CPUShare website:

    http://www.cpushare.com/ [cpushare.com]

      Still experimental for now but soon ...

      I did some math and I will build a server farm if I can get a steady 10c/hr/processor.

        Do What Now
    • Sounds like maybe "have" is a bit optimistic. From the site it looks like they may have a competing network at some undefined point in the future if they ever get around to building it in their spare time.
  • Condor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Isaac-Lew ( 623 )
    Why wouldn't a mid- to large-sized organization use something like Condor [wisc.edu]? Just install it on everyone's (linux or win2k/xp) server/workstation, maybe set some prioritization scripts so that it would use more resources after-hours (when most people are out of the office, but have their systems on anyway), & save themselves $$ instead of paying to have their data on someone else's remote system?
  • Seti@home (Score:4, Funny)

    by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:14PM (#14977055) Homepage Journal
    anyone have any idea how much it would cost me to buy the # one spot on boinc?
    Take down NEZ for one day-- that would be sweet

    http://www.boincstats.com/stats/boinc_user_stats.p hp?pr=bo&st=0&to=100 [boincstats.com]
  • by Heembo ( 916647 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:09PM (#14978032) Journal
    Oh comon, they are just trying to cover-up getting slashdotted!

    New.com article "Sun Grid hit by network attack" : http://news.com.com/2100-7349_3-6052968.html [com.com]
  • Unlike the Sun Grid, which is a commercial flop, ResPower's render farm [respower.com] is busily working away right now. Over 700 machines. Over 11 million frames rendered. Anyone can use it. They accept credit cards. Good pricing, too.

    7054 frames in the rendering queue.
    7036 frames in the rendering queue.
    7001 frames in the rendering queue....

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972