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Sun lands Sparc-Xeon super on Cape Town

South Africa's 27 teraflops

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With Cisco Systems launching its first server/system product today, the other server makers of the world were looking around to see what kind of news they could scrape up. Over at Sun Microsystems, the news today is that the South African Department of Science and Technology has funded a hybrid Sparc-Xeon supercomputing cluster based on Sun iron that will weigh in at 27 teraflops.

The machine, which does not yet have a nickname, is comprised of a Sparc Enterprise 9000 server with 64 quad-core Sparc64-VII processors. Wrapped around this system will be four Sun Blade 6048 blade servers. The first batch of 48 blade servers using Intel's current Xeon E5450 quad-core processors, but a second stage of the system add another three 6048 chasses with a total of 144 blades based on the forthcoming "Nehalem EP" Xeon processors from Intel. (The Nehalem EP chips are expected to launch on March 31 and to appear in servers soon thereafter).

The Sparc64 iron runs Solaris, of course, but it is not clear what is being put on the blade servers. Sun says that it is including the Sun HPC Linux Edition software stack, so this suggests Linux on the blades, and one would hope that Ubuntu is the Linux of choice in South Africa.

The deal that Sun has won includes ten Sun Fire X4540 storage servers with 480 terabytes of capacity and running the Lustre clustered file system. Sun is also building a visualization system for the supercomputing center and linking it all up with InfiniBand switches from Voltaire. The whole shebang is being built and tested at Sun's factories in Scotland and then will be broken down and shipped to Cape Town, where local partners Eclipse Networks and Breakpoint Solutions will reassemble the machine and qualify it.

Back in 2006, with the help of Intel, CHCP had installed a hybrid Xeon-Itanium cluster named "C4" back (short for CSIR Cluster Computing Center), which had some Opteron machines added to it. The South African government has not said what will happen to this C4 machine, which was comprised of rack servers and it looks like they were made by Hewlett-Packard from the brochure.

The new supercomputer will be installed at the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town and will be managed by Meraka Institute, which is administered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, an agency of the South African government. Funding for the machine actually came from the South African Department of Science and Technology. ®

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