Sun Expands HPC Hardware and Software

With only five computers on the Top 500 supercomputer list, Sun Microsystems isn’t exactly the first name in high performance computing, but it is trying. At the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Germany this week, Sun announced new products and enhancements to its Sun Constellation supercomputer.

In addition, Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) is showing off upcoming Sun Blade systems that will be powered by AMD’s new six-core Opteron processors, codenamed “Istanbul.” These new Opteron-powered blades will fit into the Open Network Systems announced in April, which were introduced with Intel Nehalem processor support.

Sun is in the process of being acquired by Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) for $7.4 billion. The shareholders vote on the purchase on July 16. There have been doubts raised that Oracle, a pure software company, would support and continue to grow Sun’s hardware business, even though CEO Larry Ellison has said it will.

Nehalem blades have been shipping since April and most of the wins Sun has scored this year have been based on the Xeon 5500, or “Nehalem EP” processor, according to Michael Brown, marketing manager of the HPC division at Sun. He said Sun has two petaflops worth of product either shipped or backlogged.

“Our value-add is really around our density, our level of system integration and the ease of which these large systems are brought up and put together,” he told “We have a very high bandwidth, highly integrated design and that’s where we’re seeing a lot of uptake.”

So Sun is doubling down with more density and speed. It’s introducing the Datacenter InfiniBand QDR Switch 648, a 648-port switch in an 11U form factor that offers up to three times more ports per rack, 4.5 times the bandwidth and requires a third of the cabling of competitive double data rate (DDR) switch offerings.

Sun will also show off 36- and 72-port InfiniBand offerings at ISC. All three products represent a step down from the ultra-dense Magnum switch, with its 2,345 ports. Sun is aiming to bring the Constellation technology down to the mid-range, said Brown.

More interest from mid-range sites

“We went in and got the big, critical sites first, now we’re seeing more interest from the mid-range sites, since more of them are seeing Sun’s technology and that we can apply it to their needs as well,” said Brown.

Sun is also upping the density of its Sun Storage 7000 “Amber Road” family, which use solid state drives (SSDs) to store data. The new 7000 will offer up to 1.5 petabytes of capacity and Sun’s Fishworks management software comes with it.

On the software side, Sun will show off Lustre 1.9.0, the latest version of its file system, featuring improved system performance, adaptive timeouts, OSS read caching and version-based recovery.

There will also be an upgrade to Sun HPC Software, Linux Edition 2.0, an integrated Linux HPC software stack that makes it easier to install Linux-based supercomputing environments. It supports Red Hat Linux, SUSE 10 and CentOS.

Sun will introduce Sun Studio 12 Update 1, an upgraded version of its developer tools designed to make it easier for programmers to design high-performance parallel applications for both x86 and SPARC-based systems. Finally, Sun will show off updated versions of HPC ClusterTools 8.2, xVM Ops Center 2.1 and Grid Engine 6.2 Update 3.

All of the above-mentioned products are either available now or later this summer.

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