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Submission + - Home HPC architecture choices: blade or not?

serverman writes: I have a medium-scale personal project and a budget of $50-$75k to expand my home (OK, technically I have this in a local colo) compute farm. I've already decided the economics are better to buy than rent, so no cloud usage here.

My project involves research where I run my own code to repeatedly analyze a ~30TB dataset, where data is in flat files on an xfs filesystem and and each job reads a subset of these files, always sequentially. The task is inherently sequential, so this isn't parallelizable in ways suited to Map-Reduce, for instance. I get parallelism by running one research job per CPU core, and conducting many experiments in parallel.

The architecture I have so far is to use a direct-attached external JBOD chassis and hardware RAID6 over 16 x 4TB 3.5" SATA drives. I then NFS export this read-only dataset to other compute nodes nearby, which also run compute jobs accessing the same data. I am currently CPU bound, and so far I think I could grow to 2-4 more compute nodes all reading from this NFS filesystem. Once I exceed the bandwidth of the drives, I'll buy another chassis & drives (50TB) and mirror my dataset there.

I'm looking to expand compute capacity, and looking for advice between:
        — scale out with many cheap nodes (Dell R620)
        — fewer beefy nodes (Dell R820)
        — Dell blade solutions (M1000e + many M620 blades)
        — Dell VRTX blade with internal storage + compute

I have heard that blades can be finicky (setup, compatibility), and it seems surprising to me that these enterprise technologies would be the most price-efficient. Yet the pricing seems reasonably good, and the power consumption should be better. Are blades a popular choice for HPC?

I've also heard that it's possible to directly attach storage to multiple compute nodes. Presumably if I do this, I need to switch filesystems — is this advisable? It seems like it might perform better than NFS over 1GigE.

Happy to hear what people think.
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Home HPC architecture choices: blade or not?

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Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.