Sun Goes Nuclear with New Cluster


Sun Microsystems bested rival IBM
Thursday when it secured a contract with the Department of Energy (DoE) to provide
a major computer cluster for designing nuclear reactors at a lab in Idaho.


The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) will
lease the cluster, which consists of more than 230 Sun Fire V20z servers
running at a speed of 2 trillion teraflops per second, for
three years for a total of $1.97 million.

To help the Idaho Falls lab handle the data in the AMD Opteron
processor-based machines, Sun will also provide the more than 12 terabytes
of Sun StorEdge 6320 storage. Furthermore, the lab will use the Santa Clara,
Calif., company’s software to perform such tasks as mapping out future
nuclear reactor design.


This includes Sun’s Solaris 9 operating system, Java Enterprise System and
Java development software, Grid Engine Enterprise Edition and StarOffice 7.0
office. Lab technicians will also receive on-site training and support from
Sun’s Services division.


The infrastructure will join existing systems from Sun, Cray and SGI, but
will be split off from the rest of the lab network in a collaboration
called HPC Enclave, according to INEEL Chief Architect Eric Greenway.


The system has the potential to boost INEEL’s performance capacity 20 to 80 times
over the lab’s current system. For example, officials
said applications that took a week to execute will now take 90 minutes, or go
from years to days.


Research emphasis will be on improving the production of electricity of
hydrogen for nuclear research. The cluster is part of a long-term plan for
increasing the lab’s ability to support its partners in Generation IV, an
international nuclear energy research initiative started by the DOE’s Office
of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology.


The cluster will also be used to study national security and the
environment. Researchers will further use the cluster for work in the
emerging bioinformatics field, in which protein folding is used to help
determine the way Mad Cow disease works.


For Sun, the contract is one of its largest for the Sun Fire V20z machine clusters.
It is also a coup over rival IBM, who has been busy itself of late, shoring
up supercomputing contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense.


If recent contract news is any indication, both companies, as well as HP
and Dell , stand to sell more
high-performance computing products, as the government sharpens its focus on
national security in the wake of geopolitical unrest.


Moreover, Clark Masters, executive vice president of Sun’s Global Government
Office, said he expects the U.S. government to spend more on
supercomputing contracts going forward, citing an ongoing contract
with DARPA.

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