IBM Server Cluster Taps AMDs Opteron

IBM is readying a server cluster powered by AMD's 64-bit Opteron chip.

IBM is readying a prepackaged, pretested server cluster that is powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron processor.

The offering, which will be available later this month or early next month, combines IBMs Opteron-based eServer 325 system—which targets scientific and technical computing users—with systems management software and storage devices. The bundle can run Linux and Windows applications.

The unnamed server cluster is part of the Armonk, N.Y., companys eServer Cluster 1350 product. The Opteron-based offering includes IBM Cluster Management Software, which aims to avoid problems and speed resolution of problems that occur by automating repetitive tasks and error detection. A new Linux Cluster Install Tool automates much of the installation work, IBM officials said.

Clusters comprise multiple servers linked to create a supercomputing environment.

In a related move, IBM last week teamed with Corning Inc., the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to develop high-speed, optically switched interconnects for supercomputers. The $20 million, 30-month project is aimed at increasing network bandwidth by 50 times while cutting the costs of supercomputers.

IBMs 325 systems, powered by 2GHz Opterons, give users a chance to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications on a single platform, which is important for mixed-use environments, officials said.

AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., has pushed the Opterons ability to run 32-bit applications as well as it does 64-bit applications as a key differentiator compared with Intel Corp.s Itanium architecture. The 64-bit Itanium chip does not run 32-bit applications as well as it does 64-bit software.

Intel officials last week said a delay in a software update from Microsoft Corp. means Intel technology that would let 32-bit Windows applications run better on Itanium chips will also be delayed until the second half of next year. The Intel technology, called the IA-32 Execution Layer, will be available in some Linux distributions before that, according to Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif.

The Opterons adoption path is mirroring that of the older Itanium technology, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc.

"Theres a lot of interest in Opteron in [high- performance computing]; its nearly exclusively in HPC," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H. "Its a good performing chip, and thats pretty much what HPC [customers are] looking for."