Feeds

Cray punts smaller baby super

Adds Nehalems, slashes prices

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

It looks like selling baby supercomputers based on a blade design and running the HPC variants of Windows and Linux is not as easy as Cray had hoped - which is why Cray has announced a new lower-end baby super, the CX1-LC.

The LC is short for "Light Configuration", and the idea is to get Cray blade iron into engineering offices, biotech labs, and software-development companies where a normal, two-socket x64 workstation has run out of gas and customers want to buy a blade box that can expand.

But "light" is a relative term, considering that the new LC box supports two-socket blades based on the latest quad-core Nehalem EP Xeon 5500 processors and the original CX1 announced last September had single-socket (CC48) and dual-socket (CC54) blades based on earlier generations of Xeons.

The CX1-LC is a deskside chassis mounted on rollers that has room for up to four two-socket Xeon compute blades. Like the original CX1, the CX1-LC runs on normal wall power, not the 240-volt power common with blade servers.

Fully loaded, a CX1-LC gives nerds up to 32 cores to play with, but is somewhere in the same neighbourhood of performance as the fully loaded 64-core CX1 offered last year. The advent of Nehalem EP chips also means that the eight-blade CX1 can now offer twice the oomph (very generally speaking) as it did a year ago. Significantly, the Nehalem EPs have somewhere between three and four times the memory bandwidth of the Xeon chips used in the earlier CX1 blades.

The CN5500-XD compute blade offered on both CX1 machines today is based on Intel's Tylerburg chipset and has a dozen memory slots for a maximum of 96GB using 8GB DIMMs, which are scarce and very expensive. The blade has a single fixed 2.5-inch SATA drive, which can be a 7200 or 10K RPM disk or Intel's X25-E solid state drive.

The blade has two Gigabit Ethernet ports or a dual data rate (20Gb/sec) InfiniBand port. It also features a single PCI-Express 2.0 slot that allows a two-port InfiniBand card running at 20Gb/sec or 40Gb/sec to be slapped into it, or Fibre Channel if that's what customers want to use to link to external storage.

Cray also has an optional, double-wide storage blade based on Intel's X25-E solid state drives or disk drives. This is called the CS5504-XD-F when supporting four fixed 3.5-inch SATA drives in a side chassis - in addition to the single on-blade SATA drive - offering a max of 4.5TB of capacity. When offering up to four hot-plug 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks or SATA SSDs - a max of 2TB of capacity for disks and 320GB for SSDs - it's called the CS5504-H. These were announced at the end of June.

The CT5501-XD GPU-coprocessor blade is a double-wide unit that pairs the Nehalem EP blade with a single nVidia Tesla C1060 GPU, supported using Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 only. Finally, the CV5501 visualization blade is another double-wide that pairs the Nehalem server blade with an nVidia Quadro FX 4800 or FX 5800 graphics card, making the blade a Windows or Linux workstation.

All of these blades are available in the regular CX1 or the new CX1-LC1.

In one possible scenario, the Cray CX1-LC can be set up with one visualization blade and some storage blades to function simply as a more powerful workstation. In another possible variant where I/O bandwidth is an issue, customers can put a compute blade and three storage blades in the box. Or customers can build a baby x64 Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand cluster to run code in the office instead of dispatching it to a shared supercomputer down the hall or out there on the internet.

The CX1-LC can also be used as an expansion box for existing CX boxes that have a twelve-port InfiniBand switch, providing up to 12 nodes in a single cluster spread across two chassis.

To make the CX1-LC, Cray installed a midplane in the blade chassis that only supports four blades. To upgrade to a full CX1, the midplane gets boosted to handle eight slots.

The base CX1-LC box comes with a chassis, single compute blade, power supply, and Gigabit Ethernet switch, and costs under $12,000 - which Cray says is "comparable to a similarly configured workstation." I think they're being generous to their own price list in that statement, but you can certainly beef up a workstation and spend lots of money.

By comparison, a skinny CX1 configuration last September came in at around $25,000 with a few blades and a switch, and a fully loaded box set up as a cluster costs $80,000.

Like the original CX1, the CX1-LC supports Microsoft's Windows HPC Server 2008 and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5, paired with Clustercorp's Rocks+ or Platform Computing's Cluster Manager. You can run Windows XP, Vista, or RHEL 5 on the visualization (workstation) blades. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.