Supercomputing Cuts Thin

by Amy Newman

SGI and Fujitsu unveiled blades that cut deeper into the high-performance computing space.

At one point, the International Supercomputing Conference was of interest for academic purposes. Now, it's a hotbed of news announcements, as vendors eagerly boast of their placement on the list and others jockey for press attention with their news.

Discuss this article in the ServerWatch discussion forum

The major OEMs, including Sun, IBM and Intel announced partnerships and customer wins this week. Fujitsu and SGI joined the chorus with blade server announcements.

SGI entered the blade fray this week with the unveiling of the Altix ICE Blade Platform. The product was designed to be dense enough to occupy a small footprint while consuming very little energy.

SGI claims that the energy-smart design of the Altix ICE would enable organizations to save up to $53,000 in annual energy costs for a 10TFLOP system.

SGI CEO Robert Ewald, in a statement noted, "SGI Altix ICE is a new generation of system architecture — part cluster, part MPP — that will deliver more of the potential performance of the system to the end user, and will considerably increase the reliability, availability and serviceability of HPC installations in a smaller, more energy-efficient footprint."

Thus, Altix ICE is being positioned as "the best solution for running scale-out code without compromising on manageability, cost and price/performance," Bill Mannel senior director, SGI server marketing, told ServerWatch. Based on IDC estimates of a $5 billion scale-out market, SGI estimates Altix ICE customers will come from the SMP, clustering and custom HPC space, Mannel added.

At the heart of the Altix ICE and its denseness is the "Atoka" board, which SGI co-designed with Intel. The latest version, the Atoka-P, was designed specifically for HPC environments. It offers an integrated blade architecture (including interconnect and software), scalability, and advanced reliability and density features. The board holds two dual- or quad-core Xeon processors and up to 32GB of memory to power each Altix ICE 8200 blade.

The new platform also features support for dual high-speed, low-latency Double Data Rate (DDR) InfiniBand. By dedicating a Gigabit Ethernet network to administrative tasks, SGI has freed up the 20Gb/second DDR InfiniBand connection for compute traffic. Further innovation, in the form of Gigabit Ethernet redundancy, is expected in the December time frame, Mannel said.

Previous Altix servers had shared memory. The Altix ICE changes this paradigm by delivering integrated memory, Mannel said.

The Altix ICE's innovative approach to design goes beyond the blade. Switching, for example, follows a hierarchical network topology that requires no external switching. A cable-free individual rack unit (IRU) design and on-board InfiniBand network interface cards reduce the number of failure points in every rack.

SGI Altix ICE 8200 IRUs feature redundant, hot-swap power and cooling components. Each IRU contains eight fans, and customers have the option of adding water-cooled doors, Mannel said. Together, they pull between 95 percent and 97 percent of heat away from the rack.

A full 24U rack contains 512 cores and consumes 39.5 kW of energy, Mannel said.

Although the Altix ICE will formally ship globally at the end of July, several have shipped as early access platforms, Mannel said. A full rack is priced at $350,000.

The Altix ICE wasn't the only blade solution in the spotlight this week. Fujitsu's Primergy BX600 S3 blade chassis and quad-core Primergy BX620 S4 blade server, received a performance and energy-efficiency tune up this week.

The Primergy BX600 S3 blade chassis features a new midplane, which functions as the interface between the server blades in the chassis and other system components, making it an optimal consolidation and virtualization platform.

Fujitsu is claiming high I/O throughput at all server levels, faster access to data, quicker applications, and efficient and stable communication between the server blades and other system components.

The new midplane also enables three times faster I/O throughput and provides interfaces for 60 Gigabit Ethernet cables and end-to-end Fibre Channel connections with speeds of up to 4 Gbits per second. Fujitsu had taken steps to make the midplane compatible with previous generations of both Intel- and Opteron-based BX600 blade servers.

The Primergy BX600 S3 comes equipped with the Primergy BX620 S4 blade server, which contains the latest quad-core Xeon 5300 series processor.

The Primergy BX600 S3 chassis and Primergy BX620 S4 blade server are available now. Pricing for the BX620 S4 blade server starts at $1,948, and pricing for the BX600 S3 chassis starts at $7,176.

This article was originally published on Thursday Jun 28th 2007
Mobile Site | Full Site