Nuke lab tests flashy HPC server cluster

Appro and Fusion-io plug into Hyperion

Application security programs and practises

It's Flashturbation of a different kind. US nuke lab Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has tapped longtime HPC cluster partner Appro International to custom-build a 100 TB flash-based storage system for its Hyperion x64 testbed cluster.

Project Hyperion was all the talk at the SC08 supercomputing show a year and a half ago, with Intel and Dell getting the big bits of the contract to build the testbed machine and Super Micro, QLogic, Cisco Systems, Mellanox, DataDirect Networks, LSI, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle) all getting some pieces of the action.

The Hyperion super was not so much a machine as an ongoing procurement on the part of the three big nuke labs - LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories - to have the latest technologies available to put through the paces before deciding on including them in production machines. The initial machine had 1,152 server nodes, built by Dell and using Intel's quad-core Xeon processors, delivering 90 teraflops of number-crunching power, 11 TB of aggregate main memory, and 36 GB/sec of bandwidth out to storage subsystems.

The US Department of Energy paid $5m to build Hyperion, and the other contractors paid $5.5m (most likely in free equipment and services) to pay for the other half of the cluster. LLNL estimated the fair market value of the system at between $20m and $25m when it was completed in May 2009.

Now the Hyperion machine is getting a serious data I/O upgrade. LLNL has asked Appro to take an x64 server and create a flash disk appliance for the Hyperion machine using Fusio-io's ioMemory modules. Appro and Fusion-io have cooked up a flash appliance that crams two 640 GB ioDrive Duo (multi level cell, or MLC) flash modules into a single 1U x64-based server.

Two racks of these ioSANs, as Appro and Fusion-io are calling them, yield over 100 TB of storage capacity with an aggregate of 40 million I/O operations per second of disk bandwidth. The two vendors reckon it would take 43 racks of servers and a hell of a lot more electricity to get the same I/O from disk-based storage.

LLNL is no stranger to Appro, which has five of the company's Opteron-based clusters (with InfiniBand interconnect) at the nuke lab today that made the June 2010 Top 500 supercomputer rankings. However, don't get the wrong idea: LLNL is by no means an Appro only shop, and was the first place to get a BlueGene super from IBM. In fact, in 2012, LLNL is taking delivery of a massive 20 petaflops BlueGene box from IBM, nicknamed "Sequoia," and has a puppy BlueGene/P machine in the works named "Dawn" that is rated at 501 teraflops. The nuke labs never met a supercomputer they didn't like or a technology they could not afford.

This is not Appro's first foray into the use of flash memory in supercomputers, either. Last November, the San Diego Supercomputer Center got a $20m grant from the National Science Foundation to build its second flash-based parallel super. That machine, called "Gordon" of course, will be based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" Xeons and will implement a shared memory systems based on ScaleMP's vSMP clustering technology. The server nodes in Gordon will have an aggregate of 245 teraflops of computing power (based on Appro's Xtreme-X servers, 64 TB of main memory implemented as a single memory space, 256 TB of flash memory, and 4 PB of disk drive capacity. The idea behind the Gordon machine is not to get as much flops in a box as possible, but to get CPU capacity and I/O capacity back into synch, thereby using CPU cycles more efficiently.

This is precisely the same aim the LLNL has by adding flash storage to the Project Hyperion testbed super. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
The triumph of VVOL: Everyone's jumping into bed with VMware
'Bandwagon'? Yes, we're on it and so what, say big dogs
prev story


Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.