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UK nuke lab, Korean Air Force buy SGI supers

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Supercomputer maker Silicon Graphics Inc (SGI) has sold two of its shared memory Altix UV systems to the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) nuke lab and an Altix ICE 8400 cluster to the Korean Air Force.

The company is also making processing capacity on its Cyclone HPC cloud service available to customers in Japan who have been adversely affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

AWE makes and maintains the UK's warheads for the Trident nuclear missiles that are used by the Royal Navy in its Vanguard submarines. (The rockets are made by the Lockheed Martin Space Systems.) As is the case with the US Department of Energy, AWE has to maintain the nukes without actually blowing one up every now and then to see that they still work, thanks to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

AWE is buying two of the "UltraViolet" Altix UV 1000 supers from SGI, which use the company's homegrown NUMAlink 5 interconnect to create a shared memory system that spans 128 two-socket blades servers with a total of 2,048 cores and 16 TB of maximum main memory. Such a machine has 18.5 teraflops of number-crunching oomph.

AWE did not divulge what size Altix UV 1000 boxes it bought from SGI, but it said that the shared memory applications it previously ran on an Altix 4700 machine now take half the time and will cost about half as much to own and operate over a three-year term.

AWE also has an Altix XE500 cluster supporting its visualization workloads and a Bullx B500 cluster using quad-data rate InfiniBand nick-named "Blackthorn" that as 12,936 Xeon 5600 cores running at 2.8 GHz; this machine delivers a peak theoretical performance of 145.2 teraflops and ranks number 53 on the November 2010 Top 500 supercomputer ranking. AWE was a big Cray shop for decades, and got a Cray-1A back in 1979.

More recently, in 2002, AWE installed an IBM RS/6000 SP parallel super with 1,920 processors and 3 teraflops of oomph, which was replaced by a Cray XT3 parallel super rated at 40 teraflops.

Over on the other side of the planet, SGI announced that it has sold an Altix ICE 8400 cluster to the 73rd Weather Group of the Korean Air Force to do long-term weather forecasting for the Korean military. The cluster will have more than 1,700 Xeon 5600 cores, yielding about twice the performance of the current cluster that does weather modeling.

This cluster will have 800 TB of InfiniteStorage 4600 disk arrays attached to it as well as Spectra Logic T380 and T50e tape arrays linked to it. By contrast, the Korean Meteorological Administration, which does short-term weather forecasting, has two Cray XE6 supers with a combined 90,240 Opteron cores and delivering 758 teraflops of number-crunching power.

In a separate announcement, SGI has decided that if any of its 400 Japanese customers have been impacted by the earthquake and tsunami disaster to the extent that they cannot do their HPC work – because of power outages, destroyed facilities, and so on – then they can get access to the SGI Cyclone HPC cloud for free in order to continue to do their work until they get their facilities back online.

SGI launched the Cyclone cloud back in February 2010, with 16 different applications for computational biology, computational chemistry and materials, computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, and ontologies (semantic Web and data mining) loaded onto it for companies to use remotely.

The original Cyclone cloud included an Altix ICE blade cluster, Altix 4700 Itanium-based shared memory machines, and an Altix XE cluster equipped with GPU co-processors from Nvidia or Advanced Micro Devices. It is not clear if the Cyclone has been upgraded to include the newer and more powerful Altix UV1000 shared memory systems.

As El Reg previously reported, SGI bought its Japanese spinout, SGI Japan Ltd, for $17.9m in cash just two days before the disaster hit Japan. The Japanese unit has offices in Sendai, which took the brunt of the disaster, as well as in Tokyo, Osaka, Tsubuka, and Aichi. All of its 272 employees at SGI Japan are safe. ®

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