SGI Scales Up Linux Servers

Altix 3000 family of servers can run Linux on up to 64 Itanium 2 chips and 512GB of memory within a cluster.

SGI wants to combine the flexibility of standards-based environments with the performance of supercomputing.

The Mountain View, Calif., company—formerly known as Silicon Graphics Inc.—on Tuesday is rolling out the SGI Altix 3000 family of servers and superclusters aimed at the technical computing space and powered by Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium 2 chips and the Linux operating system.

The Altix 3000 series can run Linux on up to 64 Itanium 2 chips and 512GB of memory within a cluster, according to the company.

SGI also is unveiling accompanying software designed to maximize performance by enabling shared memory across clustered nodes, rather than simply assigning memory to each processor and using message-passing technology to combine memory, said Addison Snell, manager for the HPC (high-performance computing) market for SGI.

The result is the ability to more greatly scale the systems and to reduce the latency, a key issue among users of supercomputers and clustered computing technology. Latency in the new servers averages about 50 nanoseconds, as compared with 10 microseconds in a system using traditional interconnect technology, Snell said.

SGI has been a player in the supercomputing area with its Origin 3000 series, which uses its own MIPS chips and Unix operating system, called Irix. However, Snell said having the Linux/Itanium combination broadens SGIs offerings and gives its users greater flexibility.

"Open source has a lot of momentum, and Linux is the biggest environment for that," Snell said.

Andy Fenselau, product manager at SGI, said the new open-source systems will be most attractive to customers in the sciences and life sciences spaces, where Linux and Intel chips are commonly used and where complex number-crunching is done.

An entry-level system, with a four-processor node, is more than $70,000. But that price can jump to more than $1 million when more processors are added.

The system comes in two flavors—the 3300, which uses up to 12 chips, and the 3700, with up to 64 chips.