Where Sun does see an edge is within the commercial space and where it can deliver a modified Constellation system that can support an entire business, such as an automobile manufacturer looking to test cars with computer simulations, or just one department within an enterprise, for applications such as CAD or other computing-intensive projects.
"What has changed is that you can get relatively large amounts of computing power rather inexpensively, and so departments in many cases can have their own high-performance computing, whereas 10 or 15 years ago that was not reasonably feasible," Fowler said.
While there are commodity parts within Constellation, such as Advanced Micro Devices' quad-core Opteron processors, Fowler said Sun can deliver the other parts that enterprises need for supercomputing, including storage, management software and services.
One HPC component that he indicated Sun believes it can firmly stamp with its own logo is storage.
The company is continuing to develop Lustre, a shared file system that is used with some of the larger supercomputers in the world, including some of IBM's systems. Fowler said Sun is also working to improve the data streams within these types of cluster HPC systems by shortening the time it takes to bring data off of a storage device, through a fabric and then into the processor.
Fowler said Sun is working toward creating a file system that can support up to 500GB per second. Right now, the TACC supercomputer has a file system that can handle about 80GB per second, so there is room for significant improvement.
"If you look at clusters today, the performance has increased enormously because of multicore CPUs. But the storage subsystems have not, and so there is this huge mismatch between how fast can the computer run versus how fast you can get data in and out. And so for us that has been the No. 1 thing we have been working on," Fowler said.