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Dell resells customized Cray baby super

It's a workcluster, it's a superstation

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Supercomputer maker Cray today announced a reseller agreement with number two PC and server maker (in terms of shipments) Dell, which will see the latter company resell its own custom version of the entry-level Cray CX1 baby supercomputer.

The difference between the CX1-LC that Cray itself announced in July revolve mainly around packaging of features in the deskside chassis. The Cray CX1-LC had configurations aimed at making the deskside cluster a powerful Xeon-based workstation with lots of storage or a small cluster or an expansion box for larger CX1 baby supers, which can cram 12 compute nodes in two chasses linked together.

Cray and Dell are positioning the CX1-iWS as a workstation with a cluster behind it to boost the computational capability, with three different levels of workstation and compute performance. All three configurations have a two-socket Xeon 5500 workstation blade with an Nvidia Quadro FX graphics card; this workstation is set up to run a 64-bit version of the just-announced Windows 7 Professional desktop operating system.

The CX1-iWS chassis that Dell is selling also sports a 16-port Gigabit Ethernet switch, offering lots of connectivity between nodes in the chassis and the outside world. This extra connectivity allows other workstations to plug into the baby super, and using Nvidia's CUDA HPC programming environment, remote workstations can dispatch computational work to the graphics cards in the CX1-iWS. The external Gigabit Ethernet links can also be used to attach to external network storage.

The so-called "good" configuration of the CX1-iWS has a workstation blade that sports two 2.26 GHz Xeon L5520 processors, 24 GB of main memory, a 250 GB disk, and an Nvidia Quadro FX 380 video card. The machine also has two compute blades, each with two of the L5520 processors, 12 GB of memory, and a 160 GB disk for local operating system and scratch storage, and a single storage blade, which has the same configuration as the compute blade but also adds four 1 TB SATA disks. The compute and storage nodes run Microsoft's Windows HPC Server 2008 SP2, which is a variant of Windows with math libraries and clustering tools built in and with a lower price that the regular Windows Server 2008.

This good configuration is presumably the one that has the $40,000 price tag Dell is talking about in its announcement.

The "better" configuration of the CX1-iWS from Dell puts an Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 in the workstation blade and boosts the processors on the compute and storage blades to 2.66 GHz Xeon X5550s.

The "best" CX1-iWS configuration puts an Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 graphics card on the workstation blade and pumps up the processors on the compute and storage nodes to the 2.93 GHz Xeon X5570s.

Unlike the Cray boxes, which support both Windows and Linux stacks, the Dell variants will only run the Windows stack. ®

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