Dell Touts 'Madison' for Clusters

By Susan Kuchinskas (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2003


Dell Computer Wednesday announced a new product in its PowerEdge line that will use the forthcoming Intel Itanium 2 processor (code-named Madison). Dell Wednesday unveiled the PowerEdge 3250, its latest high-performance server. The PowerEdge 3250 is also the first publicly announced server to support Intel's next-generation Itanium chip.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker said its PowerEdge 3250 is a high-performance 64-bit system designed for high-end computing tasks, such as movie special effects and genomic research. The units are expected to ship later this year.

Designed in collaboration with Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant Intel, Dell product manager Darrel Ward said the company chose the Itanium chip because it offered better price and performance than other 64-bit alternatives.

"Our goal is to enable customers to buy, use and manage the latest standards-based technologies easily, while extending the value and performance advantages of HPCC over proprietary systems," he said.

Intel's Madison is the next-generation Itanium processor for servers currently in pre-production and slated for release this summer. The chips are expected to come with 1.5GHz with 6 MB on-chip L3 cache and are pin-compatible with the current Itanium McKinley product line. The 2004 Itanium Madison is expected to be faster and carry 9MB on chip L3 cache on .13u process.

The new systems will be available in pre-tested configurations of 8-, 16-, 32-, 64- and 128-node clusters, running either 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. In what seemed to be a veiled dig at rival Sun Microsystems, Ward emphasized in a conference call that the offering was "standards-based."

"Standardization is a key driver to maximization and widespread adoption," he said.

Dell also says the 3250 is an affordable platform for the development of enterprise applications with 64-bit architectures, offering better performance at about one-third of the cost. Dell said actual pricing and shipping date would not be available until Intel releases its chip.

During the call, Ward boasted that Dell had improved its market share within the Top 500 Supercomputers list. The company now has 15 users of its clusters on the list, including the cluster at the University at Buffalo, which is the highest-ranking Dell system on the list at No. 25. Other ranking Dell clusters include: Sandia National Labs (32), Compagnie Generale de Geophysique (49), Cornell Theory Center (50), Penn State University (73), Boeing (123), University of Utah (130), Dell (242), MTU Aero Engine (291), Hong Kong Baptist University (300), Core Lab (318), Stanford University (319), Swineburne University (358), a 100-node configuration of the University at Buffalo's first cluster (368), and the University of Notre Dame (445).

Ward said the industry is at an inflexion point wherein not only high-performance computers but also enterprises will move to standard 64-bit architectures.

"The technical computing market is moving more aggressively," he said, "because they own their own applications and have the ability to make the move more easily. It will be more gradual in the enterprise. "Dell's strategy," he said, "is to release products for the technical market. Then, when enterprise application makers come along with commercial applications, we'll look and see what platform is right for that."

Several new partners have joined Dell's HPCC program, including: Altair Engineering, Data Direct Networks, Engineered Intelligence, and Qlusters.

Dell said it will also continue to provide the latest 32-bit technologies with 8- to 128-node configurations of the 1U PowerEdge 1750 server with dual 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon processors running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Many top-tier vendors are expected to jump aboard the Madison ship. Unisys Wednesday told internetnews.com it is also developing a new Itanium 2-based family of servers that go from 4- to 16-way.

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