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IBM Packs Supercomputer Into Smaller Box

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Nov 10, 2004


In a week filled with supercomptuing announcements, IBM continued its high-performance computing push Tuesday, unveiling a Power5-based cluster server that packs the power of a supercomputer into a small form factor. The latest from Big Blue is a Power 5 cluster in a smaller form factor.

An eight-processor machine, the nodes of the eServer p5-575 can be clustered to run complex supercomputing applications, according to IBM, which took the wraps off the test version at the Supercomputing 2004 Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The new server appeared a day after the Armonk, N.Y., vendor claimed the top slot on the Top500's latest supercomputer list and began selling BlueGene/L as a commercial product.

The p5-575 is thin, not unlike IBM's blade server system, BladeCenter. The company designed it as the successor to the company's p655, a system which has been used in supercomputing systems that analyze genome research, automotive crash-testing, petroleum exploration and oceanographic studies.

IBM said the new systems use multi-chip packaging to provide high-speed connections between eight Power5 processors to provide some new juice for high performance computing. For example, this technology allows up to 64 eight-processor p5-575 cluster nodes to create a single system.

The attraction of smaller, modular systems is that they take up less space and often consume less power than their refrigerator-sized server ancestors and mainframes.

The trick is packing comparable power into the smaller form factor without sacrificing performance and quality. This has been one of IBM's chief goals in improving its hardware to offer clients on-demand computing.

Slated for the first quarter of 2005, the p5-575 will be offered with 1.9 GHz Power5 processors and support for AIX 5L Version 5.2 and 5.3, as well as SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS 3 operating systems. It will house 36 megabytes of dedicated cache memory for each core. Pricing will also be unveiled at that time.

IBM plans to extend the capabilities of the IBM eServer pSeries High Performance Switch (HPS) to the p5-575 system by the second quarter of 2005. The p5-575 is the latest example of IBM filling out its vaunted Power-5 line, which features virtualization capabilities that make it possible for clients to run 10 servers on one processor.

IBM is competing fiercely with HP (Quote, Chart), Sun Microsystems and Dell (Quote, Chart) in the server space.

Also at SC 2004, Appro entered the market for high-performance blades with the XtremeBlade, according to Appro director of marketing communications Maria McLaughlin. With the ability to scale to eight processors, XtremeBlade is designed to go head to head with IBM's BladeCenter, as well as offerings from HP, Dell, RLX and Egenera.

XtremeBlade includes such perks as Infiniband (define) interfaces to all external data and storage networks, helping systems scale to handle large-scale deployments. It also offers hot-swappable blades, redundant power supplies and cooling fans to minimize downtime.

Specs include: six sub-racks housing up to 12 blade servers in each sub-rack. An XtremeBlade Cluster can support up to 72 Blade servers in a single rack cabinet solution. Appro will make its first shipments in Q1 2005, supporting Windows and Linux operating software.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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