Sun, AMD Land Their Largest Supercomputer Deal

Sun will deliver an AMD-powered, grid-based megasystem that will become Japan's largest supercomputer.

Sun Microsystems Inc. announced the largest high-performance computing deal in its 23-year history Tuesday with an AMD-powered, grid-based megasystem it will deliver for deployment next spring to the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The project ultimately will become Japans largest supercomputer, surpassing that nations Earth Simulator Center in Yokohama, which only a year ago was clocked as the worlds fastest computer.

Earth Simulator fell to No. 7 in the November 2005 Top 500 Supercomputer Sites listing, released Monday on the independent Web site.

Tuesdays announcement was made at the Supercomputing 2005 Conference in Seattle.

A Sun spokesperson declined to say how much the deal will mean financially to the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

The new system, which has been in the works for about a year, is based on Sun architecture, Sun Fire x86, 64-bit (now called x64 within the industry) servers with 10,480 AMD Opteron processor cores, totaling more than 50 trillion floating point operations per second (teraFLOPS). The huge computer also includes Sun and NEC storage technologies and NECs integration expertise as well as ClearSpeeds Advance accelerator boards.

Sun plans incremental increases in performance to beyond 100 teraflops with installation of additional ClearSpeed boards (initially from 360 to more than 600) by the time of the systems operation in 2006, the company said.

Using Suns N1 System Manager and N1 Grid Engine, the system will be provisioned to support the Solaris 10 operating system as well as Linux, the company said.

Grid computing is the application of the resources of many computers within a network to solve a scientific or technical problem that requires a great number of computer processing cycles or access to large amounts of data.

"Every student at the Tokyo Institute will have access to this computer when it is finished," said Marc Hamilton, Sun director of Technology, Global Education and Research. Hamilton is supervising the architecture for the project.

"Whats unique about this project is that itll be the largest clustered system ever built, and its using some cutting-edge technologies that are as yet unannounced by Sun," Hamilton said.

"Well have 10,480 dual-core AMD processors with the fewest number of interconnects possible, plus 1.1PB [petabytes] of storage [a unit of information or computer storage equal to 1,000TB, or 1 quadrillion bytes]."

The worlds current fastest computer, the Department of Energys IBM BlueGene/L system in Livermore, Calif., is not considered a "clustered" computer system, because "it has IBMs proprietary interconnects, therefore it is really all one system," Hamilton said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about the BlueGene/L system.

"Right now, if this computer were up and running [at optimum levels], it would be the third-fastest on the [world] list," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said that a team of 60 developers have been working on the project for about a year.

"Tokyo Techs system will be leveraged by a wide range of researchers within the university and throughout the world," said Satoshi Matsuoka, professor in charge of Research Infrastructure at Global Scientific Information and Computing Center, Tokyo Institute of Technology.

"These researchers are tackling complex problems ranging from analyzing the complex molecular structure of proteins, simulated blood flow diagnosis in human brains, modeling of the generation mechanism of Earth and planetary magnetic field and their long-term effects, to nanoscience simulation of carbon nanotubes—all tasks that require exceptional computing power and experience working with supercomputers," Matsuoka said.

Charles King, chief analyst at Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Inc., told Ziff Davis Internet that "this is a good place for Sun to be right now. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about this [supercomputing] deal. Sun obviously needs all the good news it can get, and this is good news, indeed, for them."

King said that "back in the late 90s and up through about 2001, Sun was heavily represented in the Top 500 supercomputer listings. I think they only have one system on the list now, so theyve been shut out. But thats going to change as time goes on. This [Sun-AMD-Tokyo Tech] new supercomputer deal really validates Suns partnership with AMD."

Sun has been on hot streak of late, landing its largest grid-computing deal only a week ago—an agreement with high-performance computing service provider Virtual Compute Corp. to use more than 1 million hours of CPUs on the Sun Grid Compute Utility during the next several months.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...