First of all let's speak about the choice of graphic cards. Nvidia cards are definitely the one to choose from. Cuda – the language – in which some portions of Micromagnum is written, is available only on Nvidia cards.
This narrows the choice down to another big choice:
- take consumer graphic cards
- or choose the much more expensive Tesla cards
The differences are many (some quite small):
Geforce (read consumer cards) cards do have (normally) a much smaller memory on the graphiccard. To handle big simulations, to handle complicate settings you – simply – need more memory on the graphiccard. Telsa cards start with 3 GB GPU-Memory.
Geforce cards doesn't handle error-correction. When producing consumer graphiccards, the correctness of its memory is not the main concern of NVidia (when you have a fast graphic-application running a single bit-error may not be visible at all. But imagine a single bit error in computations...). We do start to test using geforce cards, but do not have much experiences – if this is a concern – but to be sure of your results, you have to recompute and double check the results.
Now to the more hardware centric part:
- Geforce cards have active coolers
- they "may" need more power than their Tesla cousins
We don't trust the consumer fans on the graphiccards. We don't think that these fans are build with 365/24 usage in mind. So if you choose to use Geforce cards have in mind to buy an extend card for simple swapping in case of an error (or maybe have a spare fan).
Active coolers are suboptimal for building a dens-packed Cluster:
- the fans will start to heat the air in regions of your cluster-computer-case where you don't want to have hot air.
- If you choose geforce-cards – try to use large cases.
But... you definitely will save a lot of money – if power-consumption is of no concern for you – you may go quite well with these cards.
The market for Nvidia-cards is ever swapping – so the "very best" card is hard to choose from – remember: large memory is a must-have for these type of calculations – the bigger the better.
For installation/software, we do use simple Ubuntu-Linux with the newest nvidia-drivers – and they do work quite nice.
If you have further question please feel free to ask them !