Vendor sites meant to help customers make informed decisions in HPC are pretty hit and miss, and are often not much more than brochures that don’t do much to actually educate buyers. Education is particularly important if you are targeting HPC solutions at businesses, since most businesses won’t know much about where to start.
Sun has revamped its HPC website with a collection of blueprints and content called “Business Ready HPC.” You have to register to get at most of the good stuff (a pain, but nothing is really free), but after that the content is free and is of surprisingly good quality. I downloaded the Sun Business Ready HPC for ANSYS FLUENT blueprint, for example, and it doesn’t just make blind assertions about which Sun product is best. The general recommendations (in this example, anyway) were happily product agnostic, although the blueprint does end with specific products you can buy from Sun that will do the job
ANSYS FLUENT is supported on a wide range of platforms and operating systems. To achieve superior performance, especially for large size modules, Sun recommends servers with x64 Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 operating environment, and an InfiniBand interconnect.
The recommendations (node count, memory, interconnect, and storage) are all backed by performance benchmark data which is included in the blueprint. Problem sizes that drive the data in the performance studies are grouped in ranges so that individuals can identify with the results most closely related to their own problems. The interconnect advice, which is important but is also complicated and easy for first time buyers to screw up, is also well done in that the blueprint does make a general recommendation as a rule of thumb for FLUENT
ANSYS FLUENT performance depends on latency and is less sensitive to bandwidth. Low-latency interconnects are important for good performance on large clusters. A rule of thumb for interconnect selection is as follows:
- Clusters of less than four nodes: Gigabit Ethernet is sufficient
- Clusters of more than four nodes: InfiniBand or Myrinet recommended
but then also provides the raw data comparing both IB and GbE so buyers can make their own decisions. The information is concise but complete, and the particular blueprint I read was well written and professionally produced.
Sun’s business HPC portal includes blueprints, case studies, and links to other education, training, and marketing materials for MCAE, EDA, Life Sciences, Oil and Gas, Financial Services, and Research. Hat tip to Rich at the Watercooler for getting me pointed in the right direction.