Zbox4 construction

Over the past decade, my colleagues in Zurich have built several computing clusters dedicated to performing cosmological simulations. Here’s a video showing how their latest cluster, the zBox4, was put together in just a couple of days.

About cyberprofgus

I am a computational cosmologist and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Michigan.
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3 Responses to Zbox4 construction

  1. alexjking11 says:

    Very cool video. As someone who built a couple of PCs for my own personal use a long long time ago (way back in middle school), it was particularly interesting to see something similar done on such a grand scale.

    One of the things that bothered me while I was building PCs was that generally speaking, the cost of actually building a computer component by component was not all that dissimilar from buying the finished product with similar specifications from, say, Dell. And that’s, of course, not even considering the cost of my labor. Going into the projects I had assumed there would be some cost savings (mainly because I was investing so much of my own labor in building the computers), but those savings were ultimately unrealized. The conclusion that I reached was that by buying all the components in bulk (like CPUs, power supplies, towers, etc.), Dell et al. could achieve economies of scale that I could not. Still a worthwhile process, all in all, I thought, but that part was a little frustrating.

    So my question about the Zbox4 is: did the team in Zurich build this because it was cheaper than buying something off the shelf, because they had very specific design constraints, because they thought it would be fun, or for some other reason? On the website, they write that the total cost of hardware was under 750,000 CHF (i.e., under ~800,000 USD). Is this cheaper than buying a solution from, say, IBM?

  2. cyberprofgus says:

    I’ve not run the numbers but such “white box” solutions are often a factor ~2 cheaper than purchasing from Dell, HP, etc. But I think there is also a legacy aspect to this build. The original zBox was built probably 8 years ago, and back then the corporate offerings were more expensive and less flexible in terms of motherboard/memory/disk/network options. Basically, the zBox was built at the height of the Beowulf build-your-own trend, and zBox4 continues the tradition. It’s a great educational tool as well, a perfect fit for a technical university curriculum.

  3. maddiegogo says:

    How long did it take for them to build it?

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