[Computer-go] Big Iron for Orego

Peter Drake drake at lclark.edu
Mon Mar 1 08:42:19 PST 2010

I'm in a position to buy some serious hardware on which to run
Orego. Here are the constraints:

I have roughly $16K to spend.

I want to have as much processing power (i.e., many fast cores) as
possible. Having a single box would be nice, but I'm willing to use a

This system will be used for three purposes:

1) Running experiments, e.g., many games against GNU Go, to test new
    variations of Orego.

2) Possibly running Orego on the entire system. Orego is already
    multithreaded, but running it across a cluster will take more work.

3) Running Orego in tournaments.

Orego is written in Java. I want it to be platform-independent, the
existing codebase is in Java, and I often have student researchers who
have been trained in Java. This is not negotiable.

My operating system preferences, in decreasing order, are: Mac OS X,
Linux, Windows.

I don't want any strange or bleeding-edge systems. I'm experimenting
with artificial intelligence, not with system construction and

Since this is purely a number-crunching system (as opposed to a
development terminal), I don't need a fancy monitor. Heck, I might not
need any monitor or keyboard.

As a baseline, one possibility is to buy five of these:


That would be 40 cores of good hardware with an OS that I know. I
suspect that I can get more bang for my buck.

Please send suggestions to drake at lclark.edu.


Update (25 Feb 2010):

Another suggestion would be to buy a pile of Mac minis. If one of them
is running OS X Server, I might be able to use XGrid for cluster

Using educational pricing, plus $39 per machine for parts-only
AppleCare, I can get:

Qty	   Item					Price		Total
24	   2.26GHz Core 2 Duo Mac Mini		549+39		14088
1	   2.53GHz Mac Mini w/ OS X Server	949+39		987

Total								15075

That's 48 cores, plus 2 more on the server. They're quite
energy-efficient, if Apple is to be believed, and I wouldn't
technically need a rack: they can literally be stacked on a
shelf. Still ... can I get more out of a Linux setup?


Update (1 Mar):

I have a quote from a custom Linux vendor. For just under $16k, I can
get 24 cores in a single machine with 32GB RAM. This would be better
as a powerhouse for running a single, multithreaded instance of Orego,
but not as good for running experiments.

Peter Drake

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