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I need to do some large scale image processing in parallel.

I was thinking of running a dozen Mac Mini's in parallel to do the data processing.
I need to run Microsoft Windows on the machines so I can pull the data from the network using an Active X control, the only way the data is available (there are plenty of servers that I can pull the data from).

Is there a cheaper / more efficient way using rack servers by Dell or another company? The Mac Mini has got the three things I need for $800 :

  1. Gigabit Ethernet
  2. CUDA video card
  3. 4 GB RAM (+100 from base mac mini).

Is there any setup that is cheaper ?

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migrated from Dec 8 '10 at 19:19

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closed as too localized by splattne Dec 31 '11 at 8:29

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Rack server against: noise, heat and lack of anything more than a basic GPU. Rack server for: centralising all of your resources (stuffing said server with RAM and CPUs) and getting it to do your heavy lifting, it makes computer management much easier.

I don't know what sort of image processing you require, but I'd be asking myself the following.

  • Is your task easy to distribute (ala hadoop) across several boxes?
  • Is it possible to do this on the intel Atom platform? Less heat/power needed, and cheaper, and you don't have to kill a dozen Mac Os's
  • Can one or two GPU/graphics card bear a lot of the grunt needed - if so look at gamer PCs?
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Actually, I would say that for a low-cost solution, that would probably be alright. The problems that I see are:

  • Typically server clusters use a stripped-down OS (think Linux or a BSD) with a bare-minimum of services / apps. Neither MacOS or Windows fit this bill.
  • You can probably get a better break on pricing going with another machine type. Honestly, you can probably get a laptop from an office-supply or big-box retailer for a comparable (if not cheaper) price. (...or NewEgg, or Amazon, or TigerDirect, or ...) Finding gigabit network and 4GB of RAM should not be hard. (While I love the Mac Mini, it doesn't sound like it gains you any real benefit in this case.)

Also, Mac Minis aren't Rack servers, even if you place them in a rack. (Yes, you can purchase rack-mountable shelves, but that still doesn't make the Mini a rack-server...) Rack-mount servers are a very specific chassis type. They aren't cheap; typically a rack-mount server will be more expensive than a comparably-equipped Tower server.


If possible, it may be worthwhile to have one Windows box dedicated to pulling in the images (via your activeX control), dumping them into a share which is then accessed by a *nix cluster for processing. (Assuming that the downloading isn't the part that needs processing.)

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I already have plenty of nix cluster hardware available for processing. This is a preprocessing cluster. I need all windows machines pulling down data from the network as fast as possible. – Naveen Dec 8 '10 at 21:47

Have you seen the Helmer Cluster project? It is a low-cost cluster of machines used for image rendering. They even provide some stats/benchmarks at the bottom.

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You might find this thread helpful which talks about suitability of mac mini for Hadoop Cluster

Document also available at:

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Welcome to Server Fault! We really do prefer that answers have content, not pointers to content. This may theoretically answer the question however, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Iain Dec 31 '11 at 8:49

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