SGI CloudRack X2 Enclosure Aimed at HPC Space

SGI is unveiling a new enclosure for departmental and workgroup environments, which officials said was an underserved area in HPC. CloudRack X2, which supports the latest processors from Intel and AMD, is targeting groups that need more performance than a workstation can offer, but may not need all the power of a full rack cluster. The X2 enclosure also supports graphics and GP-GPU, and offers such high-speed I/O as 40G-bps InfiniBand.

SGI is rolling out a new compute cluster enclosure that officials say will address an underserved area of the high-performance computing space.

SGI on Aug. 6 unveiled the CloudRack X2 cluster aimed at the departmental and workgroup level, which includes, for example, smaller labs and engineering groups.

HPC computing normally comes in the form of one- or two-processor workstations or higher-end data center offerings, Geoff Noer, senior director of product marketing at SGI, said in an interview.

CloudRack X2 brings HPC capabilities to those groups, which might have challenging problems or tasks that need more performance than a workstation can deliver, but don't require a full rack-level cluster.

"The X2 really adds to the deployment capabilities," Noer said.

CloudRack X2 follows on the CloudRack C2 offering that SGI-then called Rackable Systems-rolled out in March. Where CloudRack C2 was aimed at Internet and cloud computing scenarios, X2 is more focused on the HPC and graphics computing environments, Noer said.

The 14U (24.5-inch) CloudRack X2, which holds up to nine CloudRack TR2000 computing trays, comes with the latest Intel quad-core Xeon 5500 Series "Nehalem EP" processors or Advanced Micro Devices' six-core "Istanbul" Opteron chips, and supports such high-speed interconnects as 40G-bps InfiniBand.

Users can scale out their environments in 24- or 216-core increments with the X2, which also supports high-end graphics or GP-GPU processing. The CloudRack trays support up to either six or eight SATA or SAS hard drives in 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch form factors, and also can support SSDs (solid state disks).

CloudRack X2 can be deployed as a stand-alone unit or can be installed in standard 19-inch racks, Noer said. That gives customers the option of using the X2 in larger, scale-out deployments.

Power and cooling are addressed through the use of SGI's Power XE cabinet, with 99 percent power distribution efficiency-the power supplies are separated from the computing trays-and redundant three-fan arrays that automatically monitor and adjust fan speed as needed. Like the CloudRack C2, the technology in the X2 allows the data center to run at 104 degrees, which enables IT administrators to reduce the cooling needed in the facility.

The X2 enclosure can handle a number of CloudRack tray configurations, which include a tray running the Intel Xeon 5500 and Atom processors and AMD's Istanbul Opteron, Phenom and Athlon chips.

The CloudRack X2 is another step by SGI to expand its reach in the HPC field. Rackable, which had focused on the data center, bought SGI-Silicon Graphics Inc.-in May for $42.5 million in large part to gain greater entr??«e into the HPC space.

The company took the SGI name-for Silicon Graphics International-and made "Rackable" the brand name for its line of scale-out x86 servers. It is continuing with the development of the old SGI high-end Altix line of high-end systems, including the upcoming "Ultraviolet" systems.