SGI Altix UV Scales Windows Server 2008 to the Max

SGI says its Altix UV system can scale Windows Server 2008 R2 to 256 physical cores, the most the software can scale and significantly more than rivals such as HP and IBM can attain.

SGI can now scale Windows Server 2008 R2 to its maximum amount on the system maker's Intel-based Altix UV.

SGI, which focuses on the HPC (high-performance computing) environment and large-scale workloads with its Altix UV, announced March 25 that on the system, users can now deploy Windows Server 2008 R2 and related Windows-based applications to their maximum scale possible of 256 physical cores and 2 terabytes of memory, significant improvements over what's offered by the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM, according to SGI CEO Mark J. Barrenechea.

"It's quite a quantum leap forward," Barrenechea said in an interview with eWEEK. "We've gone to the maximum scale possible on Microsoft technology. We're there. ... It can't get any bigger."

According to SGI, IBM's System x3950 M2 Intel-based server can scale Windows Server 2008 R2 to 96 physical cores; HP's ProLiant DL980 G7 to 64 cores.

For enterprises, the capability means they can bring their Windows-based big-data workloads-including SQL Server, with data warehousing and data mining tools built with Business Intelligence Development Studio-onto a standards-based, Intel-powered system, he said.

Much of the most recent news around big-data systems has focused on specially designed systems, such as Oracle's Exadata or SAP's HANA (high-performance analytical appliance), Barrenechea said. In addition, such workloads essentially have been the domains of high-end Unix systems, such as HP's Superdome servers, or mainframes from IBM, he said. Now enterprises have a system that uses standard, off-the-shelf technology-including Intel's Xeon 7500 Series processors-that can scale their Windows Server 2008 R2 environments to its maximum capability, he said.

A key in that scalablity is SGI's hardware-based NUMAlink 5 interconnect and its MOE (MPI Offload Engine) acceleration technology, according to Barrenechea. He also noted the close working relationship SGI has with both Microsoft and Intel.

"SGI and Intel are changing the dynamics of mission-critical computing," Pauline Nist, general manager of mission-critical computing at Intel, said in a statement. "By combining the power of the Intel Xeon processor with SGI's high-performance Altix UV system, large scale-up x86 computing is now a reality for IT looking for alternatives from the costly and proprietary RISC/mainframe architectures."

For SGI, this is the latest step in bringing Windows into the Altix UV fold. The system has run unmodified SUSE and Red Hat Linux operating systems. Windows, Barrenechea said, is new territory. SGI announced March 15 that the Altix UV had been certified to run Windows Server 2008 R2, and at the time could scale the Windows software to 128 cores and 1TB of memory, both of which beat HP and IBM, he said.

The Altix UV can scale Linux operating systems to 2,048 cores, he said.

Barrenechea said he sees the target markets for highly scalable Windows as being the same as those for scalable Linux. The first is the technical computing space, which encompasses HPC and includes such industries as pharmaceuticals and financial services. Such sectors are "looking for a lot of cores and memory," he said.

There also is the data-intensive market, such as large-scale databases and data warehousing workloads. This will continue to be an important area for SGI and its competitors, as enterprises look for ways to handle the vast amount of data they accumulate.

"Big data equals big opportunity," Barrenechea said.