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SGI Has 'Eagle' Eye for DoD's Defense

SGI has sold the U.S. Department of Defense a supercomputer to help the agency simulate aircraft, weapon systems and battlefield scenarios more accurately than ever before.

The DoD's U.S. General Services Administration and Federal Technology Service group installed the machine at the Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) Major Shared Resource Center (MSRC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, SGI said in statement.

Engineers at the base will use the supercomputer, called Eagle, to improve weapon systems design and speed modification programs. Eagle will also be used to upgrade the quality of weapons simulations.

Compared to many supercomputers on the Top500 list of the world's most powerful computing machines, Eagle runs Linux at a modest 11.63 teraflops , or trillions of calculations per second.

This speed comes courtesy of 2,048 1.6 GHz Intel Itanium 2 processors, along with two terabytes of memory addressable by any system processor.

Leaders on the Top500 list include IBM's BlueGene/L, which runs at 70.72 teraflops and another SGI Altix, which runs at 51.87 teraflops for NASA. Were the Top500 list updated today, Eagle would rank ninth behind an IBM BlueGene/L that runs in the company's Rochester, Minn. lab.

Eagle is the DoD's most powerful computer to date, building on the ASC MSRC's existing SGI supercomputing power, which now employs more than 4,100 processors from five separate SGI systems.

SGI competes with IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems and Cray in the growing market for machines that can scale to massively parallel computations. Such computers can often throw inordinate amounts of computational resources to address crucial challenges.

Like products from its rivals, SGI machines have been used in several important areas. Supercomputers are used in the medical field to help brain surgery, as well as to find oil more efficiently, study global climate and shore up homeland security and national defense.

SGI, based in Mountain View, Calif., said it believes it has an advantage in helping the government's Linux computing gear expand without tradeoffs between scaling up and scaling out.

This is because the Altix architecture allows clustering, or scaling out, and the addition of more nodes of processors, commonly referred to as scaling up. Each node scales from four to 512 processors, sharing up to 4TB of memory.