When a problem becomes big enough, moving to a cluster is absolutely the right decision. Meanwhile, RAM is cheap and follows Moore's Law.
And many people don't want to deal with physical hardware. Dealing with physical hardware increases operational complexity too. They want to rent a virtual/cloud server. Which provider allows you to rent a virtual server with 1 TB RAM?
A 1TB RAM server is more expensive than 10x 100GB RAM servers, but the hardware cost is often small compared to the business and technical cost of getting a solution to scale across a cluster.
Of course, generalizations are always dangerous—the take-home point here is perhaps that before going to a cluster because “that's the way big data is handled,” it's a good idea to do a proper cost-benefit analysis.
I've got to remember this one
It is true that while the jump from 256GB to 3TB is "just" ~2x -- I could get a server for 1/10 of the price of the original configuration -- but only with 4GB of RAM, and nowhere near even 18 hardware threads.
If you are CPU limited (even at 72 hw threads) you might need more, smaller servers.
But such a monster should scale "pretty far" I'd say. Does cost about half as much as a small apartment, or one developer/year.
Expensive in a relative to a low-end server or month of cloud usage, but that's an absurd amount of computational power.
Sure, but in the latter case you'd also have to pay for the manpower to build a cluster solution out of a formerly simple application. And people are usually more expensive than servers.
10x100GB will have 10x the computing power of 1x1TB server.
Although, that means the 10x setup must cost much more. I think the idea in the comments above was taking 10 cheaper, weaker servers and somehow coming out with roughly the same price...
Well, in any case, things just got too complicated :)
If you work outside the order form, you can get 768 GB, too. 1 TB is possible with their haswell servers, but availability seems limited.
Surely you just rent an instance of the computing power you need for an hour or two then upload the data, a script and wait.