Debian Linux cluster beats supercomputer in tsunami warnings

Philippine weather service finds forecasting cheaper with Linux

The Philippine government's official weather service, PAGASA, has replaced its SGI supercomputer with a clustered Debian Linux system that can process information vital to protection against typhoons, floods, droughts, tsunamis and other wild weather conditions at a fraction of the cost.

The cluster includes eight PCs running as a single node, connected via a gigabit switch, each with dual 64-bit Intel Xeon processors running the Debian Linux OS.

"We tried several Linux flavours, including Red Hat, Mandrake, Fedora etc," said Alan Pineda, head of ICT and flood forecasting at PAGASA.

"Our ICT group came out with Debian as the most stable in servers, especially when things are being done pretty much in automatic mode. In our workstations the preference among programmers is Ubuntu, which is basically Debian-based," he said.

The major motivation for migrating to an open source based system was cost. Previously, for almost a decade PAGASA used an SGI Irix supercomputer that cost over P200,000 (AUD$5200) a month to run. Since September 2007, the Debian Linux cluster has dropped that monthly figure down to around P10,000 (AUD$260).

"The other motivation was to increase computing power with less capitilisation. With Irix, our capitilisation was about P25 million (AUD$655,000). With the Debian cluster we spent around P2 million (AUD$52,000) including the migration cost and training," Pineda said.

"It doesn't make a dent in our budget; it's very negligible."

Pineda said PAGASA also wanted to implement a system which is very scalable.

All in all PAGASA uses 32 clustered processors, with 16 devoted to R & D and 16 for operational purposes.

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Andrew Hendry

PC World


Brent Bice


Comparing apples to oranges

At the risk of being called biased, didn't anyone notice that they were comparing a linux cluster on bright, shiny new equipment with fast CPUs to a cluster on dated IRIX gear? This might have been more interesting if they compared their Debian cluster with one of the SGI offerings using similar equipment (say, an Altix ICE cluster).

It's not exactly shocking to find that a cluster of 3 ghz itaniums beats a cluster of 400 mhz mips systems. :-)



I use Red Hat OS,will happen thoes things?

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bbice, yep, I agree with you. Considering that the SGI Origin2000 in PAGASA uses 8 x R10000-400MHz processors with only 2GB of memory and 5 x 4.5GB disks in an Origin200 cabinet, it will definitely lose to the new tech cluster (aggregate 16 Processors rated in gigahertz and multi-core, how many gigs of memory, disk I/O in the 3++ Gb/sec).

Now, was that fair?

By the way, SGI has support, quality assurance, etc. I wonder what type of PCs were used in the Debian Cluster? Although it is true that SGI does cost more, I would rather buy their stuff than risk having a crash using some "off-the-shelf" from God knows where stuff then telling the Filipino People... "Ooops, I made the wrong forecast..."

I forgot to mention that this was installed in 1998 when PCs were still running Pentium 2 processors as Performance PCs...



R10000-195MHz. Sorry about the mistake... (Veeeerrrryyy far from 2++ GHz Multi-Core Xeon Processors...).... Now is that a fair comparison?

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