Re: Hardware Progress: $319/GF

From: Dani Eder (
Date: Fri May 31 2002 - 09:52:59 MDT

The cost of processing power continues to drop like
a rock with rocket assist. Cost has dropped 20%
in the past two months and approximately in half
in the past 6 months.

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 best
cost/performance nodes I have found are as follows:

Date $/Gflop/s
Nov 01 600
Jan 02 437
Mar 02 397
May 02 319

Component prices are obtained from,
including shipping but not sales tax. Current
configuration is as follows:
Case: $25 Generic Mid-ATX w/300W power supply
Motherboard: 58 Aopen AK73
CPU: 59 AMD Duron 1.3GHz
Memory: 155 3x512MB PC133 SDRAM
Storage: 174 2x80GB EIDE internal Hard Disk
Networking: 100 4 NICs/node, wiring, hubs

Total $571/node

AMD processors when used efficiently perform 1.375
Flop/Hz (3 FPUs @ 2 cycles per calculation -
which makes the calculation:
$571 / (1.3 GHz * 1.375 Flop/Hz) = $319/Gflop/s

If optimistic estimates of the required computer
power for human-level AI are correct at 100 TFlop/s,
it presently costs $31.9M to buy a human's worth
of computers.

I have estimated an 'economic
crossover' of $3M for 100 TFlop/s when computers
become generally cheaper than humans. 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 $120K as the total
cost per year of a technical professional. We are
therefore about 3.4 doublings in performance/$
away from economic crossover. At current rates of
cost reduction, that would be reached in early 2004.

Economic crossover is not implying we would have
human-level AI at that point, but rather that
skilled human tasks which require lots of processing
power (i.e. driving a vehicle on a highway) would
be cost-feasible. This has implications in the
social and economic realms.


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