Silicon Graphics is behind the worlds largest shared-memory Linux system, a 512-processor behemoth at NASAs Ames Research Center. Recently, I got to look at this giant system, which is built on available Altix 3000 technology. (The largest commercially available Altix 3000 has only 256 processors.)
The supersize Altix 3000 system, deployed earlier this year, has a peak performance of 3 teraflops. Its currently being used in NASAs Echo ocean-modeling research project.
Harnessing 512 Intel Itanium 2 processors and SGIs shared-memory NUMAflex architecture, the Altix 3000 runs SGIs Linux Environment 7.2. It processes large-scale calculations faster than standard Linux clusters because it holds all of the workflow and data in memory.
The NASA server is a proof of concept, which shows that Linux can scale up nicely when given the right hardware. NASA aims to use its souped-up Altix 3000 to test the limits of the Altix architecture; likewise, SGI intends to apply what it learns to future servers.