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Sun shrinks Constellation for HPC run

Hopes to outdo Bull

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Sun Microsystems has suffered from a hate-hate relationship with the supercomputing world over the past few years. The shift to Linux clusters caught the company totally off guard, and resulted in Sun vanishing from the Top500 supercomputers list. That's hardly the "right" position for a company that prides itself on selling servers and building big systems to occupy.

Now, Sun is trying its best to creep back into the supercomputing fold. And it's having some success - at creeping.

Sun's proudest HPC moment in many years occurred this week when its Ranger system built for the Texas Advanced Computing Center popped in at number 4 on the Top500 list. The massive computer stood as just one of four total Sun-based systems on the list. Meanwhile, IBM and HP have hundreds of systems on the Top500.

Sun's looking to take the "Constellation" gear at the heart of Ranger and shrink it down so that more companies can buy into the HPC play, which includes Sun's servers, storage boxes and switches.

So, customers will now see a 72-port Datacenter Switch, which is a much scaled down version of the 3,456-port Datacenter Switch used with Ranger. The 1U unit was previewed last November, meaning that Sun has, as usual, taken its sweet time to get the part out the door.

Also new to Sun's lineup is the Sun Blade X6450, which holds dual- and quad-core Xeon chips. Combine that server with the new switch, and you can get 7.37 Teraflops of computing power in a rack.

Out of all the major hardware vendors, Sun remains the one closest to being a pure play server shop, so it's always a bit confusing to see it trail rivals by a wide margin with things like HPC systems or blades. It's been working at improving HPC systems for a number of years and has enjoyed a couple of big wins. That said, we'd expect Sun to have way more supercomputers at this point than, say, SGI or Bull, but no such luck.

Perhaps the mini-Constellation will change Sun's fortunes . . .®

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