The strongest compute node I have has 32 cores. It is a Sun server that once was a flagship and still packs a punch. I just bought one that will be a formidable challenger.
This new one is proud beast indeed. I am stalking a pack of them from Germany for weeks now and I just noticed one where the auction ended inside a 5 minute gap... I had to take the shot. I aimed carefully, breath out, squeeze not pull... bang, I have it, it is mine!
The new server is an IBM Server System X3850 X5, a fifth generation enterprise server that was released March 31, 2010, some 10 years ago. The end of production date is June 30, 2015, just 4 years ago. The price was reasonable, very reasonable indeed.
This one has 4x Xeon E7-4870 10 Core 2.40GHz CPU. I was careful to buy one that has four installed CPUs 10 cores each. These CPUs have hyper-threading, so that's 80 threads right in one single box. This processor model had a list price about $4400 in their time and this has 4 of them running in it. That's a staggering price drop, isn't that?
Well, yes the server has only 32GByte RAM, but that's just for booting it and experimenting with it, this is how they do it with older servers on EBay. The RAM is sold separately. It will be enough for the first times and I can add more later. I am not sure if I will have to buy memory expansion boards though... Because these servers can hold memory up to 3TB, that's respectable even with today's standard, right?
And here is some chilling and scary plot twist: two of these servers can be connected together using a pair of special cables to form one 160 core, 6TB RAM, 8 CPU monstrosity. Oh my!
The only problem is that you will not just need two of these servers, but also the cables that are very expensive. I guess nobody bought the cables then and there are not many on the market now. But really, look, the two cables costs almost as much as a server:
But can you imagine? Perhaps not 6TB RAM yes, maybe less, but 160 threads in 8 processors running one Linux kernel? That sounds like a supercomputer.
Well, we will see, the thing is that 80 cores will be plenty, I will take some time with it, after 32, 24 and 16 cores it will be a difference. Later, who knows, maybe.
This one I bought has no disks, no caddies. I better buy some and from some nearby place, otherwise the server arrives and I will have no way to install an OS. The server comes from Germany, they usually ship very fast, the package usually arrives in 2-3 days... I reckon it will be here before Friday afternoon...
P.S.:I learned about these servers from this guy, here he speaks about the same server: