Supercomputing, Built Super Fast

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-12-22 Print this article Print

Team uses Sun hardware, Rocks Software to create cluster in 2 hours.

Using hardware furnished by Sun Microsystems Inc. and the open-source Rocks Cluster Management software, a research team at last months Supercomputing conference in Phoenix assembled one of the worlds fastest computers in less than 2 hours. RockStar, a 128-node Sun Fire V60x configuration, achieved the rank of 201 on the list of the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites when the updated list was announced at that event.

Following the conference, eWEEK Labs met with personnel from Sun and from the San Diego Supercomputer Center, home base for the Rocks initiative. Clark Masters, Suns executive vice president for enterprise systems products, sees the growing use of clusters as a strategic fit with Suns technologies.

When it comes to processor power, Masters told eWEEK, "80 percent of the performance is achieved with 50 percent of the die size. The other 50 percent is used for out-of-order execution, look-ahead and ancillary stuff to get that other 20 percent."

The better idea, said Masters, "is to do a simpler chip implementation and replicate that: In the same socket, you get more powerful computing." The strong multithreading performance of Suns Solaris completes the picture, he said.

Suns forthcoming UltraSPARC IV—with two UltraSPARC III cores on a single die—also illustrates his point. "We own all the key technology pieces," Masters continued, "so you can come at the problem from a system perspective instead of just a microprocessor perspective."

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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