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SiCortex sticks to Summer supercomputer ship

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USENIX Tied to such a bizarre supercomputer design, SiCortex seemed certain to miss its product ship target. Not so, according to engineer Win Treese, who promised the boxes will arrive this Summer (beta systems out now) as planned, during a speech here at the Usenix conference.

Some of you will remember that SiCortex took our TopFLOP 2006 award for crafting the most compelling supercomputer of the year. The company has taken six-core MIPS chips, put 27 of those chips on each server board and then slapped 36 of the server boards in a DeLorean-inspired case. This beast gives a customer 5832 GFlops of horsepower while chewing through just 20 kilowatts (10W per chip) of power.

SiCortex tried to solve a few major problems facing the high performance computing industry with this design. For example, today's x86 server-based clusters enjoy strong per chip performance, an affinity for Linux and low hardware costs. They also, however, consume a ton of power, spend ages waiting for memory, take up a lot of room and suffer from numerous failures.

By going with low power chips, SiCortex could keep overall energy consumption low while also pushing components closer together, improving internal communications (1 microsecond of MPI latency for SiCortex versus 10 microseconds of MPI latency for standard clusters). And like its x86 counterparts, the SiCortex 5832 runs Linux (modified Gentoo) and the Lustre file system.

The big daddy 5832 starts around $1.5m, while its little brother the SC648 starts at around $200k. Since these systems hold huge amounts of memory - 7776GB for the SC5832 – the prices vary quite a bit.

SiCortex hopes to attract customers in the oil and gas, mechanical design and life sciences fields to the new system. ®

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