Orion Workstations Act as Single-Box Clusters

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2004-08-30
 
 
 
A startup company is rolling out a family of workstations aimed at the technical computing space that offer clusterlike capabilities inside a single box.

Orion Multisystems Inc. on Monday will launch as a company as well as unveil its first two products—a 12-node desktop workstation that offers up to 36 gigaflops of performance, and a 96-node deskside system that can peak at 300 gigaflops.

"[Clusters] have found a home in the high-performance computing world … and in backroom data centers," said Colin Hunter, president and CEO of the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

However, workstations have been fading in recent years, first being increasingly replaced by desktop PCs, which in turn have been used in clusters, such as Beowulf clusters, thanks to the rise of such standard technology as Message Passing Interface—or MPI—and Linux, Hunter said.

Clusters of computers, though, have their own problems, including scheduling and heat and noise management. What Orion is looking to do is solve those problems by putting the low-power cluster components—from the processors to the I/O to the storage—into one box that is meant to be used by only one technician or engineer.

The components used in the Orion Cluster Workstations—which can plug into a standard wall socket—include Transmeta Corp.s low-power Efficeon processor, as well as on-board 1G-bps Ethernet connectivity between nodes, and 10G-bps Ethernet connectivity between boards, Hunter said. The personal clustered systems also use a low-power mobile disk drive for distributed storage, and each node has identical components.

The systems—the DS-96 deskside cluster and DT-12 desktop workstation—also use an MPI library, a common component in most clusters, a cluster file system to enable stand-alone distributed storage, and a video subsystem.

In the systems, there is one "head" node that communicates with the user, Hunter said.

The DS-96 offers 192GB of memory and up to 9.6TB of storage, and consumes less than 1,500 watts of power. The DT-12 offers 24GB of memory and up to 1.4TB of internal disk storage, and uses less than 200 watts. Users also can link up to four systems, scaling the DT-12 to 48 nodes.

The target space is about a $2.5 billion market, which includes engineers running modeling tasks in the mechanical, electronics and financial industries, he said.

The new systems will range in price from $10,000 to $100,000, Hunter said.

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