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Cluster's Latest Stand

High Performance Computing (HPC) usually brings one of two responses from enterprise IT architects. Most commonly, IT big thinkers see the annual list of the world's 500 fastest computers and marvel at the achievement, while simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief that their organization isn't tasked with managing such a beast.

But an increasing minority of architects is also looking at the other end of the list and thinking about the competitive advantage their company might achieve with a computing resource capable of cranking out calculations by the teraflops. We're not just talking traditional HPC applications such as simulations; nowadays data mining and even transaction processing can be handled by clusters.

The biggest names in the industry are now working to bring the cost of HPC down and joining forces with open-source projects that have long led the state of the art in clustering. Factor in the commercialization of open-source projects with a new offering from Microsoft and the roaring performance of Intel and AMD's 64-bit dual-core chips, and clusters become a resource that belongs on any IT shortlist. 200Gflops clusters can cost as little as $100,000 to build, whereas proprietary RISC-based Symmetrical Multiprocessors (SMPs) with similar performance typically cost at least five times as much.

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