Sun Amps Superclusters with Fire Link

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Nov 18, 2002


Looking to extend its supercomputing tendrils to better serve education, research and government facilities, Sun Microsystems Monday unveiled a new clustering technology aimed at ramping up data center operations.

The Sun Fire Link interconnect, code-named Wildcat, supports throughput of 4.8 gigabytes per second and maxes out at more than a teraflop, or one trillion floating operations per second, in a cluster of systems. Steve Perrenod, group manager for high performance technical and computing at Sun, told internetnews.com Fire Link is a "much more scalable cluster interconnect to address commercial and high-performance computing environments." The new interconnect technology boasts 'terascale' clustering capabilities to bolster data center functionality.

Perrenod said the technology is targeted at improving the operations of such high-end servers as the Sun Fire 6800 and the Sun Fire 12K and 15K, and is capable of powering up to 800 CPUs. It does so, he said, with high-bandwidth and low-latency to help customers build superclusters that can function as a virtualized system capable of scaling as nodes are added -- important for data center environments where IT managers need to build on performance capabilities.

At a time when rivals such as Cray, SGI and IBM are ramping up supercomputing wares, Sun claimed a few benchmarks were broached with Fire link, including high marks for performance with sustained 2.8 gigabytes per second bandwidth and MPI latency rates under four microseconds. Simply, data is zipped between servers more quickly and more bandwidth is delivered than the usual interconnects. Among the features, Perrenod noted, is "link striping," which allows for up to four Sun Fire Link channels in parallel and hot-swap components.

Sun said it will sell the new clusters as a new offering called Galaxy-class configurations. Canada's High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPCVL), Germany's Aachen University of Technology and the United Kingdom's Cambridge-Cranfield High Performance Computing Facility are all using Galaxy configurations from Sun.

Dr. Ken Edgecombe, HPCVL Executive Director, said Sun Fire Link interconnect gives researchers at HPCVL a "tremendous increase in throughput within a wide variety of applications."

Edgecombe attested that scalable cluster performance, as provided by Fire Link, is important to HPCVL applications such as chemistry, economics, mechanical engineering, physics and psychology.

In other Sun technology news, and in keeping with "pay-as-you-grow" philosophies in harsh economic times, the firm introduced Capacity on Demand 2.0, which lowers server system costs while bolstering scalability in the data center.

With CoD 2.0, customers can purchase Sun Fire midrange and high-end systems configured to scale instantly, and perhaps most poignantly, at one processor at a time. Chris Kruell, director of outbound marketing for enterprise system products at Sun, told internetnews.com this should be attractive to customers because competitors "charge a premium for similar capabilities."

With technology roots in the Sun Enterprise 10000 server, as well as the Sun Fire 3800 through the Sun Fire 15K servers, CoD 2.0 is aimed at helping retailers handle the holiday rush.

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