Sun Launches Smaller Opteron Blade, Partners with NEC
Published: November 16, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
As part of its announcements at the SuperComputing 2006 trade show this week, Sun Microsystems announced a smaller blade server chassis that will appeal to high performance computing customers who like density and low dollars per flops. Sun also announced that after its successful partnership to build the Tsubame cluster for the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Sun and Japanese server maker NEC would be broadening and formalizing their partnership to chase HPC deals.
The Sun Fire 8000 P is a 14U rack-mounted chassis that allows Sun to stack three blade chasses in a single rack; the 8000 series chassis, which was launched in the summer, was a 19U box, which meant it could only fit two in a rack with a little room to spare. To make the smaller chassis, Sun dropped the number of I/O cards from six to two, which makes sense because HPC customers usually want to use InfiniBand or some other kind of interconnect to link server nodes. The same Sun Fire 8000 blades plug into the chassis, which currently use the Rev E dual-core Opterons from Advanced Micro Devices, but which, according to Sun sources, will be upgraded with Rev F blades soon. This Rev F blade will, of course, be ready for quad-core Opterons when they come out in the middle of 2007.
The X8400 blade servers that plug into the 8000 and 8000 P chasses support four Opteron sockets and 16 DDR1 main memory slots, for a total of 64 GB using 4 GB DIMMs. HPC customers are budget conscious, however, and would probably only buy 2 GB DIMMs at current prices. So that means this blade will probably support 32 GB of memory for a total of eight Opteron cores. The 8000 P chassis has room for ten X8400 blades, plus six hot-swap power supplies and two PCI-Express Network Express Modules, which provide 40 PCI-Express slots for I/O per chassis.
The 8000 P chassis costs $7,495, and an eight-core configuration costs $14,600. Solaris, Linux, and Windows are all supported on the X8400 blades.
The greater density of the 8000 P chassis means Sun can cram 240 Opteron cores in a rack for around 1.25 teraflops of peak floating point performance. Moving to quad-core Rev F processors could nearly double the performance per rack, maybe hitting 2.3 teraflops depending on how the quad-core Opterons turn out.
Sun's biggest supercomputing deal in a long time involved the X4600 eight-socket Galaxy server, which provides the backbone and some of the computing in the Tsubame cluster at Tokyo Tech. NEC, not Sun, was the general contractor on that cluster, however, and mainly because national pride is always involved when it comes to large supercomputer centers.
But, business is also business in the IT racket, and Sun and NEC this week announced a formal agreement that will see NEC sell Sun Fire servers as part of its HPC catalog. NEC and Sun will each install their respective HPC offering--Sun's Opteron-based Galaxies and NEC's vector-based SX supers--in their respective supercomputer testing centers. And, finally, NEC will sell hybrid SX and Sun Fire clusters to HPC customers.
This Tsubame cluster has 10,480 Opteron cores in total. It also uses the X4500 "Thumper" data server and floating point accelerator board from Clearspeed). The Tsubame cluster is currently rated at 47.4 teraflops on the Linpack Fortran benchmark test.