Sun targets high-performance computing shops with Constellation

Sun's new high-performance computing system achieves the petascale dream with a new system that scales up to 2 petaflops.

Today Sun Microsystems Inc. announced two new systems designed to address the extreme computation, scale and storage requirements of today's high-performance computing (HPC) customers.

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The Sun Constellation System is an open computing environment that combines ultradense, high-performance compute, networking, storage, and software into an integrated "petascale" general-purpose system. Running Solaris, Linux and Microsoft Windows, the Sun Constellation System is designed to scale from departmental clusters to the largest supercomputer configurations, enabling customers to solve complex computational problems, the company said.

Petascale has been a dream for a long time. We are now within reach.
Bjorn Andersson,
director of HPC and integrated systemsSun Microsystems Inc.

"Petascale has been a dream for a long time," said Bjorn Andersson, director of high-performance computing and integrated systems at Sun. "We are now within reach with the platforms, storage and networking to get us at that level of performance. From a compute standpoint, we scale from a single rack up to 2 petaflops, which is way larger than anyone else on the market offers today."

The Constellation System includes compute nodes, InfiniBand switching and high-performance storage and targets commercial industries like manufacturing of automotive, aerospace and electronics, finance, life sciences, and oil and gas.

Sun goes after the HPC market
With this offering, Sun is poised to be major player in the high-end supercomputing market, said Steve Conway, a research vice president of technical computing systems at Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC.

"The Constellation system is getting Sun into the higher reaches of the supercomputing market, where they weren't as competitive before. Now they will be able to compete for large contracts," said Conway.

On such large contract, and Sun Constellation's first user, is Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), which is deploying a 504 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraflop) compute cluster.

The Sun Constellation CentOS Linux Cluster, named Ranger, will have 3,936 nodes, 123 terabytes of memory and 62,976 processor cores from AMD Opteron quad-core processors. The system is specifically designed to support very large science and engineering computing, according to TACC.

Ranger will go into initial production in December, and all system components will be connected via a full-Clos InfiniBand interconnect. Eighty-two compute racks will house the infrastructure, which will sit in TACC's J.J. Pickle Research Campus in Austin, Texas.

Constellation components
Sun's Constellation is made up of Sun Blade 6048 Modular Systems, which support Sparc, Opteron and Intel Xeon processors and run industry-standard OSes including Solaris and Linux. The chassis packs 48 blades and is air cooled. Depending on the CPU components, up to 30 KW of power is used in the rack, Andersson said.

The system is optimized for InfiniBand on the backplane with 3,456 ports -- 12 times the number of ports offered by other vendors on the market, Andersson said. The system also supports Ethernet, including 10 Gigabit Ethernet, though it is "optimized" for InfiniBand.

Constellation also utilizes the Sun Datacenter Switch 3456, a single chassis InfiniBand switch that Sun claims delivers 12 times the capacity of the largest InfiniBand switch available today. With it, the Sun Constellation System requires one-sixth the number of cables of competitive systems, Andersson said. The system offers high throughput, high-density storage and high-capacity tape archive.

In addition, Sun's StorageTek 5800 storage system is designed for large-scale storage of fixed data.

Factory integration services and design are provided through Sun's Customer Ready program. Customers work with Sun to create a "recipe" for an optimized Constellation in their environment. Sun then builds and tests the cluster using the customer's own applications in the factory prior to shipment, Andersson said.

Though prices vary depending on various components, a highly usable system starts well below $100,000, according to Andersson.

IDC's Conway, who is also a member of the HPC User Forum Steering Committee, said that with Constellation Sun has positioned itself well to make inroads in the high-performance computing market. "Sun has historically been involved in the supercomputer market at various levels," he said, "but now they have committed to being an important player."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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