Servers' power grows at almost every size

Servers' power grows at almost every size

Rod Adkins, IBM's general manager for Web servers, shows off the p690 eServer.

The cabinet of Cray Inc.'s new SX-6 super- computer brings to mind past Cray designs.

Server makers' new lines run the gamut from compact midrange systems to high-end supercomputers-in-a-box.

Cray Inc. of Seattle, freed from import restrictions that kept Japanese-built, shared-memory vector supercomputers out of the United States for years [GCN, April 16, Page 32], announced a rebranded SX-6 high-performance system from NEC Corp. of Japan.

A vector supercomputer has far fewer processors than the massively parallel systems prevalent in the last decade, and each processor handles more data per instruction, said Eric Pitcher, Cray's senior technical marketing director.

The Cray SX-6's single-chip vector processors, also designed by NEC, have a peak rating of 8 billion floating-point operations per second and memory bandwidth of 32 gigabytes/sec, Pitcher said.

The SX-6 processors are grouped together in parallel nodes, each with eight processors and up to 64G of shared memory. An 8-gigabyte/sec, bidirectional crossbar switch interconnects the nodes, Pitcher said.

Buyers can get up to 128 nodes for total theoretical peak performance of 8 trillion FLOPS, Pitcher said.

Entry-level government pricing for the SX-6 starts around $500,000 through NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement III contract.

IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. brought out new high-end servers that run their proprietary flavors of Unix.

A week after Sun launched its 72-processor Sun Fire 15K [GCN, Oct. 8, Page 5], IBM unveiled its high-end p690 eServer, code-named Regatta.

The 32-way p690 can be divided into as many as 16 virtual servers shielded from each other's faults, said Joel Tendler, technology assessment program director for IBM's server group.

The IBM Power4 microprocessors in the p690 act as servers on a chip, combining two 1.1-GHz or 1.3-GHz processors with on-chip cache and a high-bandwidth switch, Tendler said.

The p690's theoretical peak speed exceeds 166 GFLOPS. It has 160 PCI slots'five I/O slots per processor'and, when equipped with an expansion rack, can hold 4.6T.

It runs IBM's proprietary version of Unix, AIX 5L, and shares many features with its smaller sibling, the p660-6M1 eServer, such as self-healing diagnostics developed by IBM's Project eLiza group.

The new server can stop and restart a PCI bus in case of an intermittent parity failure that ordinarily would bring processing to a halt, Tendler said.

The p690 eServer starts at $450,000 for an eight-way system with 1.1-GHz processors, 8G of memory and 36.4G of storage.

SGI has trimmed the modular design of its Origin 3000 supercomputer to workgroup size in its new offering, the SGI Origin 300 server.

The Origin 300's base module fits in 2U (3.5 inches) of rack space and has two or four 500-MHz MIPS R14000 processors with up to 4G of memory, said Sylvia Crain, an SGI marketing manager.

The processors share memory through SGI's nonuniform memory access architecture, NUMAflex.

A PCI module adds 12 64-bit PCI slots to the Origin 300 configuration.

Another expansion module, called NUMAlink, can scale up to 32 CPUs or 56 PCI slots.

The Origin 200 starts around $24,000 for a base configuration with two CPUs, 512K system memory and 18G of system disk space.

NEC Computers Inc. of Sacramento, Calif., introduced a new line of midrange servers with an emphasis on fault tolerance and high availability.

The first entry, the NEC Express5800/320La, has a completely redundant architecture, said Mike Mitsch, director of enterprise products.

Half in reserve

Two of the server's 800-MHz Pentium III processors do the work and the other two are for failover, Mitsch said. The maximum 4G of memory and eight expansion slots also provide redundancy, because the server functions logically as a two-way system with a maximum of 2G of RAM and four slots.

The Express5800/320La comes as either an 8U rackmount or a tower cabinet. It starts at $19,997 with Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server and no disk, Mitsch said.

The company will offer a model with the Linux operating system later this year.

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