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Sun Goes Nuclear With New Cluster

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Aug 13, 2004


Sun Microsystems bested rival IBM Thursday when it secured a contract with the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide a major computer cluster for designing nuclear reactors at a lab in Idaho. The Department of Energy this week tossed Sun Microsystems a roughly $2M contract to power a lab in Idaho.

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) will lease the cluster, which consists of more than 230 Sun Fire V20z servers running at a speed of 2 trillion teraflops per second, for three years for a total of $1.97 million.

To help the Idaho Falls lab handle the data in the AMD Opteron processor-based machines, Sun will also provide the more than 12 terabytes of Sun StorEdge 6320 storage. Furthermore, the lab will use the Santa Clara, Calif., company's software to perform such tasks as mapping out future nuclear reactor design.

This includes Sun's Solaris 9 operating system, Java Enterprise System and Java development software, Grid Engine Enterprise Edition, and StarOffice 7.0 office. Lab technicians will also receive on-site training and support from Sun's Services division.

The infrastructure will join existing systems from Sun, Cray, and SGI but will be split off from the rest of the lab network in a collaboration called HPC Enclave, according to INEEL Chief Architect Eric Greenway.

The system has the potential to boost INEEL's performance capacity 20 times to 80 times over the lab's current system. For example, officials said applications that took a week to execute will now take 90 minutes, or go from years to days.

Research emphasis will be on improving the production of electricity of hydrogen for nuclear research. The cluster is part of a long-term plan for increasing the lab's ability to support its partners in Generation IV, an international nuclear energy research initiative started by the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology.

The cluster will also be used to study national security and the environment. Researchers will further use the cluster for work in the emerging bioinformatics field, in which protein folding is used to help determine the way Mad Cow disease works.

For Sun, the contract is one of its largest for the Sun Fire V20z machine clusters. It is also a coup over rival IBM, who has been busy itself of late, shoring up supercomputing contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense.

If recent contract news is any indication, both companies, as well as HP and Dell stand to sell more high-performance computing products, as the government sharpens its focus on national security in the wake of geopolitical unrest.

Moreover, Clark Masters, executive vice president of Sun's Global Government Office, said he expects the U.S. government to spend more on supercomputing contracts going forward, citing an ongoing contract with DARPA.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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