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Just found out I have about 24 hours to put a grant proposal together. I want to get a cluster for research, and would like advice on what to get, where to get it, and what I can expect to get for about $20k. (So actually its a quite limited budget - but I caught you searching for soft-core geek porn).

Requirements:

GPUs are not an option
2 GB memory per node
Running computer simulations with large data-intensive geometries (voxelized patient CTs)
somewhat large stacks are to be expected
Very low long-term storage required.

We will be working with patient data, so we must keep the system in house - no farming out to a service like Amazon. Plus this would be running as close to full time as possible once its all set up. The system would be dedicated to just two applications with similar requirements. Large jobs that can easily be parallelized between computers, but with no need for advanced multi-threading and very low multi-tasking requirements.

Any advice would be welcome.

[EDIT]: OS: Linux

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closed as off-topic by Stefan Lasiewski, ceejayoz, dawud, Katherine Villyard, mdpc Feb 22 at 17:24

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Please make the subject correctly reflect the question. –  Sean Reifschneider Nov 18 '10 at 5:39
    
"We will be working with patient data, so we must keep the system in house - no farming out to a service like Amazon." That's not necessarily true. aws.amazon.com/compliance/#hipaa –  ceejayoz Feb 21 at 1:45
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4 Answers

Good thing about Amazon EC2 is that they now auctioning unused resources. So if, like in your case, constant up time is not required, rather you need a raw power whenever it's cheapest, I think it can be a better deal.

http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/#instance

Scroll down to Spot Instances to see current prices.

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Agreed... power needed occasionally??? use the cloud :D –  Arenstar Nov 17 '10 at 21:20
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Without more specific details on your application I would suggest that you don't have sufficient funds for a cluster and would be better off with a four 12-core/CPU AMD system with 128 GB RAM, which gives you 48 cores and 3 GB/core. This will run you around 12K, not including the storage. You might as well use direct attached disk storage.

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Unfortunately we will be working with patient data, so we must keep the system in house - no farming out to a service like Amazon. Plus this would be running as close to full time as possible once its all set up. The system would be dedicated to just two applications with similiar requirements. Large jobs that can easily be parallelized between computers, but with no need for advanced multi-threading and very low multi-tasking requirements. Also, since the grant would be for twice what my "salary" is (as a grad student), I am planning on avoid as much DIY as possible so that I can actual –  jjl3 Nov 17 '10 at 21:24
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Don't add comments as answers - either add them as comments, or just edit your original post. –  mfinni Nov 17 '10 at 21:42
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Inspiration from a low budget rendering farm in an IKEA cabinet - http://helmer.sfe.se/

If the computer power is just needed under a limited timerange, maby a computing service like Amazon EC2 or something similar is the answer?

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Looks like you are looking more for cloud computing than cluster computing. You should check out SUSE. They have some now cloud software that claims you can build your own cloud within 7 minutes. If you want free/open source, Ubuntu 12 supposedly supports cloud very well.

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