Supercomputers Set for Linux

SGI, HP building systems for number crunching.

Businesses and researchers looking to bring Linux into their supercomputing environments will soon have new options coming from Silicon Graphics Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to choose from.

SGI will roll out this quarter the Altix 3000 server, which will run Linux on as many as 64 Intel Corp. Itanium 2 chips. The platform will complement SGIs proprietary Origin 3000 products, which run the companys Irix operating system and are powered by its MIPS processors.

In preparation for the launch, the Mountain View, Calif., company last week unveiled the SGI ProPack suite of Linux optimization software tools aimed at enhancing scaling, data handling and resource management.

The Altix 3000, aimed at technical users whose applications involve number crunching, will come in two flavors: an entry-level server that offers up to 12 chips and 96GB of memory and a supercluster model that scales to hundreds of processors and more than 1 terabyte of memory.

Officials said future scalability will run to 2,048 processors and 16 terabytes of global shared memory.

The servers also can be clustered via SGIs proprietary NUMAlink interconnect technology, which is also used with the Origin 3000 server family.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., later this year will roll out Itanium 2-based versions of its eight-processor rp7410 and 16-processor rp8400 servers. The systems, part of the family that includes the 64-processor Superdome server, currently run on PA-RISC chips and the HP-UX operating system. The new Itanium systems will run Linux as well as HP-UX and later this year will also support Windows, officials said.

Users will be able to cluster these servers to create supercomputing environments, officials said.

Superdome will be released this summer and coincide with Intels release of the next-generation Itanium 2 chip, code-named Madison. HP officials said the other Itanium-based servers will roll out within a few months after the release of Madison.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is already creating supercomputer clusters using HP rx2600 servers powered by Itanium 2 and running Linux. Scott Studham, technical lead for the labs Molecular Science Computing Facility, said they chose Linux over HP-UX in part because they had used it in other projects. "It is very stable, very robust, and [it is] very easy to get support," Studham said.

The Richland, Wash., lab already has a 128-node cluster in place and will deploy within two months a second phase that uses 1,900 processors. Studham said the combination of HP servers with Intel chips running Linux has worked well.

"Every operating system has issues scaling to the extreme ends," he said. "What we do is take two CPUs and then use a [Quadrics Ltd.] interconnect to scale" the system, he said.