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Cell server maker promises pint-sized powerhouse

'Turismo' mightier than blades

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SC05 Mercury Computer Systems – the leading Cell-based server maker – has started showing off a new "Turismo" design that promises to pack an incredible amount of compute power in a small space.

Mercury had pictures of the Turismo system on display this week at the Supercomputing event here in Seattle. The rectangular box can supply up to 800 GigaFLOPS of horsepower in a 600 cubic-inch system. Four of the boxes can be combined to create a 5U system that cranks out 3.2 TeraFLOPs. A six-foot rack of the boxes would produce 25 TeraFLOPs.

Mercury's CTO Craig Lund was happy to pat the company on the back for this achievement.

"The amount of processing that Turismo is designed to provide in such a small footprint is simply astounding," he said. "We expect that our new Cell processor-based offering will truly make a difference for many customers in solving problems that require this caliber of performance density in an affordable solution."

Representatives at the Mercury booth were cagey about Turismo details. "NDA, NDA, NDA," they said, as we recoiled. Even the Turismo artwork was light on information being nothing more than a picture of a rectangle with words like "powerful" and "super" around it.

Mercury has been hyping a Cell-based blade server for some time. Trial systems are in customer's hands and volume shipments will start early next year. It fits into IBM's BladeCenter chassis, and seven of the dual-Cell blades slot into 7U box.

Mercury has taken the clear lead in Cell server marketing and stands as the major hardware backer to date of IBM, Sony and Toshiba's multicore chip.

The Turismo system will hold four Cell BE (Broadband Engine) processors, have dual 4X InfiniBand support and "multiple" Gigabit Ethernet ports. The system will also run Yellow Dog Linux.

Customers, however, will have to wait awhile for Turismo to arrive. It should be around in limited quantities in the third quarter of 2006 with volume production in early 2007. Until then, it's blades only. ®

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