Volume 3, Number 22 -- June 13, 2006

IBM Sells 113 Teraflops of Power-Linux Clusters to CGG

Published: June 13, 2006

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

If you have been the computer business for a while, you can probably remember when a teraflops of number-crunching power seemed like an impossibly large amount of computing. Now, you can relatively easily acquire hundreds of teraflops of computing capacity--provided you can construct a building with enough power and cooling to cope with this amount of computing power.

Well, Compagnie Generale de Geophysique, one of the world's largest geophysical research and services companies, gets enough money from its customers in the petroleum industry that it can afford to run very large computing complexes. And for its next-generation distributed cluster architecture, CGG has decided to install 113 teraflops of computing capacity based on IBM's PowerPC 970MP-based JS21 blade servers running the Linux operating system. According to Tim Jones, director of development of low-end pSeries and blade servers at IBM, the VMX vector co-processors inside the PowerPC 970MP chips were a big factor in CGG's decision to go Power-Linux instead of X64-Linux. Specifically, CGG has acquired 2,800 two-socket JS21 blades. Each socket has a dual-core, 2.5 GHz PowerPC 970MP processor, with each core getting its own VMX co-processor and 1 MB L2 cache. CGG has chosen the new BladeCenter H chassis, which supports 4X InfiniBand and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, to house these blades.

These blade servers are not all located in one data center, and they are not clustered directly together, but are rather located in four different locations. CGG has a development center in Massy, France, outside of its Paris headquarters, and compute centers in London, England, Houston, Texas, and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia--which are reasonably close to large oil and gas production areas, where oil companies need to crunch large amounts of seismic data as they look for fossil fuels. Rather than pick IBM's AIX Unix variant, which runs on the JS21s, CGG has chosen to deploy its applications on Linux; as we went to press, it was unclear which one CGG had chosen. Terra Soft's Yellow Dog Linux is an option, since it is tuned for Power chips and for HPC workloads.

Thanks to the VMX vectors and some code optimization that was possible because CGG was an early tester of the JS21 blades and wove support for the VMX extensions into its Geocluster applications, the organization says that it has been able to triple the amount of computing capacity it has compared to the mix of rack-mounted X86 servers it is replacing.

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Kevin Vandever,
Shannon O'Donnell, Victor Rozek, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
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