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Sun throws new servers, switch and storage gear at HPC set

Constellation finally spotted

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SC07 Sun Microsystems will use this week's Supercomputing conference in Reno to make good on delivering a number of products aimed at the high performance computing crowd. When all the product releases are taken as a whole, Sun ends up with a lineup that could help it regain ground lost to IBM and HP.

Regular Sun watchers will have heard of all of these products before due to the company's nasty habit of pre-announcing gear well ahead of its actual ship date.

For example, we have the Sun Blade 6048 Modular System. This is Sun's new, dense blade server chassis that can hold SPARC-, Opteron- and Xeon-based servers. Customers can mix and match the different blades and slot up to 48 blades in a single chassis.

Sun's standard Sun Blade 6000 chassis holds 10 blades in a 10U unit. By comparison, the Sun Blade 6048 takes up a rack's worth of space and holds 12 blades across 4 shelves.

To complement the blade system, Sun is also rolling out its hulking switch designed by co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim. The Datacenter Switch 3456 gets its name from the whopping 3,456 ports. The InfiniBand system boasts a total bandwidth of 110Tb/s and can hold 1,152 cables and 12 connections per cable. Sun reckons this switch provides 12 times the capacity of the largest rival InfiniBand switch while needing just one-sixth the number of cables.

On the insanity front, Sun is finally shipping the StorageTek 5800 storage system - aka "Honeycomb." Er, we first wrote about this unit way back in 2004. Friends saw actual prototype units at that time.

So to see Sun release a very similar box to those prototypes near the end of 2007 is very confusing. Even Sun's own employees were bragging last May that the system would ship "very soon."

The StorageTek 5800 goes after the so-called Content Addressable Storage (CAS) market where the system relies on metadata to keep track of unstructured files such as medical images or songs. The base 5800 unit runs on a 100 Series Opteron chip from AMD and holds four 500GB SATA disks. Sun will then group 8 or 16 of those base units together to create a larger system. The 5800 magic happens through an embedded query engine.

There's more on the box here.

As part of its HPC push, Sun is also reminding folks that they can run the Lustre file system on the x4500 hybrid server/storage unit.

Sun is combining these server, switch and storage products into a single package called Constellation, which is described as "the world's first open petascale computing environment."

The company has decided to wrap Constellation in a couple of new service plans in which Sun will help customers map out their HPC needs. Sun will then craft and ship a ready-to-run Constellation system off to the customer.

Sun trails rivals HP and IBM by a dramatic margin in the HPC market and is even behind so-called "commodity" specialist Dell. It hopes that this new gear will help it win some more spots on the Top500 supercomputers list and, more importantly, win new deals with large businesses that have turned to HPC systems for complex tasks. ®

Register editor Ashlee Vance has just pumped out a new book that's a guide to Silicon Valley. The book starts with the electronics pioneers present in the Bay Area in the early 20th century and marches up to today's heavies. Want to know where Gordon Moore eats Chinese food, how unions affected the rise of microprocessors or how Fairchild Semiconductor got its start? This is the book for you - available at Amazon US here or in the UK here.

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