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The Seven Computational Cluster Truths

Inspired by "The seven networking truth by R. Callon, April 1, 1996

Adapted for HPC clusters by Nikolai Bezroukov on Feb 25, 2019

Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the HPC community. This memo does not specify an standard of any kind, except in the sense that all standards must implicitly follow the fundamental truths. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Abstract
This memo documents seven fundamental truths about computational clusters.
Acknowledgements
The truths described in this memo result from extensive study over an extended period of time by many people, some of whom did not intend to contribute to this work. The editor would like to thank the HPC community for helping to refine these truths.
1. Introduction
These truths apply to HPC clusters, and are not limited to TCP/IP, GPFS, scheduler, or any particular component of HPC cluster.
2. The Fundamental Truths
(1) Some things in life can never be fully appreciated nor understood unless experienced firsthand. Most problems in a large computational clusters with more then 640 nodes can never be fully understood by someone who never run a cluster with more then 64 nodes.

(2) Every problem or upgrade on a large cluster always takes at least twice longer to solve than it seems like it should.

(3) One size never fits all but complexity dramatically increases with the size of the cluster. In most cases the severity of any single problem grows exponentially with the size of the cluster.
(3a) Supercluster is an attempt to try to solve multiple separate problems via a single complex solution. But its size creates another set of problem which might outweigh the set of problem it intends to solve. .

(3b) With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea.

(3c) Large, Fast, Cheap: you can't have all three.

(4) On a large cluster issues are more interconnected with each other and a typical failure affect large number of nodes or components and take more effort to resolve
(4a) Superclusters proves that it is always possible to add another level of complexity into each cluster layer, especially at networking layer until only applications that use a single node run well.

(4b) On a supercluster it is easier to move a networking problem around, than it is to solve it.

(4c)You never understand how bad and buggy is your favorite scheduler is until you deploy it on a supercluster.

(4d) If the solution that was put in place for the particular cluster does not work, it will always be proposed later for new cluster under a different name...

(5) Functioning of a large computational cluster is undistinguishable from magic.
(5a) User superstition that "the more cores, the better" is incurable, but the user desire to run their mostly useless models on as many cores as possible can and should be resisted.

(5b) If you do not know what to do with the problem on the supercluster you can always "wave a dead chicken" e.g. perform a ritual operation on crashed software or hardware that most probably will be futile but is nevertheless useful to satisfy "important others" and frustrated users that an appropriate degree of effort has been expended.

(5c) Downtime of the large computational clusters has some mysterious religious ritual quality in it in modest doze increases the respect of the users toward the HPC support team. But only to a certain limit.

(6) "The more cores the better" is a religious truth similar to the belief in Flat Earth during Middle Ages and any attempt to challenge it might lead to burning of the heretic at the stake.

(6a) The number of cores in the cluster has a religious quality and in the eyes of users and management has power almost equal to Divine Spirit. In the stage of acquisition of the hardware it outweighs all other considerations, driving towards the cluster with maximum possible number of cores within the allocated budget Attempt to resist buying for computational nodes faster CPUs with less cores are futile.

(6b) The best way to change your preferred hardware supplier is buy a large computational cluster.

(6c) Users will always routinely abuse the facility by specifying more cores than they actually need for their runs

(7) For all resources, whatever the is the size of your cluster, you always need more.

(7a) Overhead increases exponentially with the size of the cluster until all resources of the support team are consumed by the maintaining the cluster and none can be spend for helping the users.

(7b) Users will always try to run more applications and use more languages that the cluster team can meaningfully support.

(7c) The most pressure on the support team is exerted by the users with less useful for the company and/or most questionable from the scientific standpoint applications.

Security Considerations

This memo raises no security issues. However, security protocols used in the HPC cluster are subject to those truths.

References

The references have been deleted in order to protect the guilty and avoid enriching the lawyers.

Slightly skeptical HPC dictionary

Quantum alchemistry -- a variation of quintal chemistry when researchers understand absolutely nothing about software they are using.

"HPC derangement syndrome" among researchers, Tell signs:

Deus ex machina

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[Apr 01, 2019] The Seven Computational Cluster Truths

Inspired by "The seven networking truth by R. Callon, April 1, 1996
Feb 26, 2019 | www.softpanorama.org

Adapted for HPC clusters by Nikolai Bezroukov on Feb 25, 2019

Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the HPC community. This memo does not specify an standard of any kind, except in the sense that all standards must implicitly follow the fundamental truths. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Abstract
This memo documents seven fundamental truths about computational clusters.
Acknowledgements
The truths described in this memo result from extensive study over an extended period of time by many people, some of whom did not intend to contribute to this work. The editor would like to thank the HPC community for helping to refine these truths.
1. Introduction
These truths apply to HPC clusters, and are not limited to TCP/IP, GPFS, scheduler, or any particular component of HPC cluster.
2. The Fundamental Truths
(1) Some things in life can never be fully appreciated nor understood unless experienced firsthand. Most problems in a large computational clusters can never be fully understood by someone who never run a cluster with more then 16, 32 or 64 nodes.

(2) Every problem or upgrade on a large cluster always takes at least twice longer to solve than it seems like it should.

(3) One size never fits all, but complexity increases non-linearly with the size of the cluster. In some areas (storage, networking) the problem grows exponentially with the size of the cluster.
(3a) Supercluster is an attempt to try to solve multiple separate problems via a single complex solution. But its size creates another set of problem which might outweigh the set of problem it intends to solve. .

(3b) With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea.

(3c) Large, Fast, Cheap: you can't have all three.

(4) On a large cluster issues are more interconnected with each other and a typical failure often affects larger number of nodes or components and take more effort to resolve
(4a) Superclusters proves that it is always possible to add another level of complexity into each cluster layer, especially at networking layer until only applications that use a single node run well.

(4b) On a supercluster it is easier to move a networking problem around, than it is to solve it.

(4c)You never understand how bad and buggy is your favorite scheduler is until you deploy it on a supercluster.

(4d) If the solution that was put in place for the particular cluster does not work, it will always be proposed later for new cluster under a different name...

(5) Functioning of a large computational cluster is undistinguishable from magic.
(5a) User superstition that "the more cores, the better" is incurable, but the user desire to run their mostly useless models on as many cores as possible can and should be resisted.

(5b) If you do not know what to do with the problem on the supercluster you can always "wave a dead chicken" e.g. perform a ritual operation on crashed software or hardware that most probably will be futile but is nevertheless useful to satisfy "important others" and frustrated users that an appropriate degree of effort has been expended.

(5c) Downtime of the large computational clusters has some mysterious religious ritual quality in it in modest doze increases the respect of the users toward the HPC support team. But only to a certain limit.

(6) "The more cores the better" is a religious truth similar to the belief in Flat Earth during Middle Ages and any attempt to challenge it might lead to burning of the heretic at the stake.

(6a) The number of cores in the cluster has a religious quality and in the eyes of users and management has power almost equal to Divine Spirit. In the stage of acquisition of the hardware it outweighs all other considerations, driving towards the cluster with maximum possible number of cores within the allocated budget Attempt to resist buying for computational nodes faster CPUs with less cores are futile.

(6b) The best way to change your preferred hardware supplier is buy a large computational cluster.

(6c) Users will always routinely abuse the facility by specifying more cores than they actually need for their runs

(7) For all resources, whatever the is the size of your cluster, you always need more.

(7a) Overhead increases exponentially with the size of the cluster until all resources of the support team are consumed by the maintaining the cluster and none can be spend for helping the users.

(7b) Users will always try to run more applications and use more languages that the cluster team can meaningfully support.

(7c) The most pressure on the support team is exerted by the users with less useful for the company and/or most questionable from the scientific standpoint applications.

(7d) The level of ignorance in computer architecture of 99% of users of large computational clusters can't be overestimated.

Security Considerations

This memo raises no security issues. However, security protocols used in the HPC cluster are subject to those truths.

References

The references have been deleted in order to protect the guilty and avoid enriching the lawyers.

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