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Old 02-20-2007, 12:50 PM   #1
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Pricing a Linux System

I worked a lot with Linux in graduate school, but never had to setup or maintain the system. I am now looking into doing just that, as my company is interested in using it for weather modeling (which is what I did in graduate school).

I have absolutely no idea where to begin in terms of going about pricing the system and knowing exactly what I need. I do have some basic guidelines from the organization that provides the model I need to run. Essentially what I know is:

-Need a Linux system with PGI and Intel compilers
-MPP environment (probably in need of at least 12-16 processors, each with at least 2 GB RAM)
-Have an idea of the various software packages I need

What I know, but don't fully understand, is the requirements listed for the model I need. Under platforms, it lists:
- Linux: PGI and Intel compilers (ifort 8.1 recommended)
Pentium 3/4 clusters and SMPs
Pentium 4 cluster iJet system at NOAA FSL
Intel Xeon IA32
IA64/Linux MPP (SGI Altix)
IA64/Linux MPP (HP Superdome at PNNL)
IA64/Linux MPP (NCSA)
IA64/Linux SMP (local)
AMD Opteron

I don't know the difference between these various processors/setups. Also, my former graduate advisor told me I would want a RAID array holding several Tb...but I've got no idea what that means other than it will be used for data storage.

I would appreciate any help on where to start on this. Tutorials about hardware and how to price this sort of stuff would be great. Any other introductions on building/maintaining a Linux system would be great...keeping in mind I've never gotten into the techincal stuff of maintaining any system other than my home PC.

Old 02-20-2007, 04:39 PM   #2
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Well I would probably start by talking to a couple of the system manufacturers and see who can meet your needs from a hardware standpoint.. you've listed some pretty beefy specs there, and being the first Linux system you are planning to manage SUPPORT from the manufacturer would be a good idea.

So on to manufacturers.. start with the Obvious

IBM, Dell, HP.

IBM many different platforms, supports RedHat Enterprise Linux and Suse Enterprise Linux
Dell, Pretty much Intel only, supports RedHat Enterprise Linux and Suse Enterprise Linux
HP many different platforms, supports RedHat Enterprise Linux and Suse Enterprise Linux and Debian Linux.

Being a Debian fan I would probably look at the HP route pretty closely. Debian will also run on more varied processor architectures than RedHat or Suse.

But then again looking at your requirements ifort 9.1 supports the following..
# Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, 4
# SUSE Linux 9.1 Professional
# SUSE Linux Enterprise Server* 9
Which brings you back to RH or SUSE as the preferred OS for your project.

Looking at the supported OS's for the PGI compiler brings us back to Suse and RedHat as well..
64-bit - SuSE SLES 8 SP2, SLES 9/10, SuSE 9.0/9.1/9.2/9.3/10.0/10.1, 
RHEL 3.0/4.0, Fedora Core 2/3/4/5 (AMD64, Xeon EM64T)
Since you are looking for a MPP environment you will be purchasing multiple servers with their own memory and storage in each server, to basically build a cluster computing environment.

The sales reps from the hardware manufacturers can be a good resource for you, if you explain your needs, get quotes from several manufacturers to keep them all honest and locate any weaknesses in your proposed design. The Sales reps have Sales Engineers at their beck and call, that will design the system per your specs, so don't be afraid to make use of those resources.

You may find out that IBM or HP provided the hardware for the model you are viewing, so they may be more aware of what you need than you are..
Old 02-20-2007, 06:36 PM   #3
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In regards to the RAID with several terabytes: what you'll need to find
out is HOW the data will be stored, and whether the performance or the
volume is more critical. I've had good experiences with the IBM DS-2000
(don't nail me down on the number, might have been a 4000 or 6000, it's
been over a year :}) under Linux, which is a fibre-channel connected SAN
with up to 28 FC disks. We were using the smallest size then available
(73GB each, 20 would have been good enough) in a RAID-10 because we needed
the speed, not the volume for our Oracle 10gR2 database.



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