SGI launch greener HPC server

SGI today announced its next generation blade server solution for high performance computing, offering six teraflops in a rack using less energy and space than previous models, the company said ahead of the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden.

The ultra-dense rack architecture means the new Altix ICE 8200 is capable of delivering 40 per cent more computing performance per floor tile than competitors, while maintaining a smaller energy output, SGI claimed.

A single Altix rack can be powered by 512 Intel Xeon processing cores, delivering six teraflops of performance. Altix's smart powering saves 76 per cent of previous energy use at rack level, while water-cooled doors pull away 95 per cent of the heat, saving energy and extending product life.

While such high performance devices tend to be used by government bodies and public sector organisations, such as defense, industry, and research and education, enterprise are increasingly buying into HPC hardware for big projects. "Performance computing is moving into enterprise, to run large CRM and large business intelligence applications" said Tim Butchart, European vice president of SGI.

With configurations available running between eight and 512 processors per rack, a full 512 rack will cost $350,000 (172,000).

However, the Altix platform could be a money saver for some because of energy efficiencies and cooling innovations. "It can save 10 per cent of power in a system equating to about $53,000 for a ten teraflop or two-rack system," said Dave Parry, senior vice president and product general manager at SGI.

In order to achieve the efficiencies, any extra components were taken off the blades including storage, while cables were minimised. The system can do 128 cores without cabling and 512 with only minimal cables, which also helps reduce the number of failure points in every rack.

As the device comes preloaded with software, it's easy to install, the company claims. "We ship the system ready to run customer applications rather than just a box of parts," said Parry.

The system is already in use by the University of Exeter, where Matthew Bates, a professor of theoretical astrophysics plans to use it to study the formation of stars and planets.

The school took delivery of a 128-core system last week. "It arrived in the morning... it was up and running by early afternoon," said Bates. He added that a previous smaller cluster bought by the school from a different vendor sat around for weeks before it was set up and running.