Hardware Progress: $438/Gflop/s

From: Dani Eder (danielravennest@yahoo.com)
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 12:06:57 MST

The cost of processing power continues to drop like
a rock. I've been tracking the cost of a node in
a Beowulf-type cluster of commodity computers, where
the memory is kept at a ratio of 1 byte/flop/sec,
and storage is 100 bytes/flop/sec. The current
best price/performance I can come up with is
$437/Gflop/s. This compares to $600/Gflop/s
two months ago.

Component prices are as follows (obtained from
pricewatch.com, including shipping but not sales tax):

Case: $31 Generic Mid-ATX w/ 300W power supply
Motherboard: 56 Aopen AK73
CPU: 75 AMD Duron 1.2GHz
Memory: 212 3x512MB PC133 SDRAM
Storage: 248 2x80GB Samsung EIDE internal
Networking: 100 4 NICs/node, wiring, hubs

Total $722/node

AMD processors when used efficiently perform 1.375
Flop/Hz (3 FPUs @ 2 cycles per calculation -
which makes the calculation:

$722 / (1.2 GHz * 1.375 Flop/Hz) = $438/Gflop/s

If optimistic estimates of the required computer
power for human-level AI are correct at 100 TFlop/s,
it presently costs $43.8M to buy a human's worth
of computers. I have estimated an 'economic
crossover' of $3M when computer intelligence
becomes cheaper than human intelligence. This is
based on a computer being able to put in 5x as
many productive hours as an average human, a 5 year
payback time on the hardware, and $120K as the total
cost per year of a technical professional. We are
therefore less than 4 doublings in performance/$
away from economic crossover.

Planned improvements in chip manufacturing should get
us to that point within 4 years. AMD plans to be
producing chips with 65nm feature size by 2006,
which should lead to a 20x reduction in cost.


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