HPC Unit Pays Off for Intel

When the list of the top 500 most powerful computers in the world is released on Monday, 119 of them will be based on Intel architecture, say Intel officials.

Intel Corp. 18 months ago created a division within the company to address the needs of the HPC (high-performance computing) industry. Officials with the chip maker believe that work is beginning to pay off.

When the list of the top 500 most powerful computers in the world is released on Monday, 119 of them will be based on Intel architecture, according to Rick Herrmann, manager for the Santa Clara, Calif., companys HPC unit. That has grown from three systems 18 months ago.

"Theres been a lot of momentum in high-performance computing toward a standards-based architecture," Herrmann said.

In addition, there is a growing demand for standards-based HPC among large commercial customers, he said. About 30 percent of the Intel-based systems on the Top 500 list—which is being released in conjunction with the International Supercomputer Conference, in Heidelberg, Germany—are run by commercial users, Herrmann said

In addition, number three on the list—a system cluster run by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory built by Linux Networx—run Intels 32-bit Xeon chips.

Herrmann said the numbers are an indication that Intel-based technology is growing in its ability to scale up to meet the demands of HPC customers, and that interest for cheaper, industry-based technology is growing among these users.

To meet demand for more power and less cache memory among HPC users, Intel will add another chip into its 64-bit Itanium 2 roadmap, he said. In the third quarter, the company will release a 1.4GHz Itanium 2 dual-optimized chip that offers 1.5MB of Level 3 cache. The chip will be based on the Madison processor, the next generation of Itanium 2 that is expected to be released next week. That chip—the Itanium 2 6M—will offer up to 6MB of Level 3 cache. Another Itanium 2 chip next year will offer 9MB of cache.

The chip aimed at the HPC space also will be released around the same time as Intels lower-power 1GHz Low-Voltage Itanium 2 chip—code-named Deerfield—designed for blade servers and rack-mounted systems.

Also at the supercomputing show in Germany, Intel will unveil a three-year collaboration with Hewlett-Packard Co. and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics to create an international life sciences program. For its part, Intel will establish a life sciences competency center within the institute near Lausanne, Switzerland, Herrmann said.

The institute has created a group called Vital-IT, whose mission is to develop high-performance computing tools needed in the life sciences. Intel will work with the institute, Vital-IT and HP to port code used by researchers there to clustered HP systems powered by Itanium 2 processors, Herrmann said.