Enterprise Linux Log

Nov 12 2007   2:33PM GMT

Linux still dominates the HPC arena


IBM HPC cluster

For some time now, Linux has been the dominant operating system in high performance computing. For everything from IBM, with its rockstar status supercomputer Blue Gene, to NEC or U.S. HPC players SGI and HP–the bulk of the leading HPC clusters today are Linux-based.

Four of the top five HPC systems in existence today are based on Linux, according to Top500 Supercomputing Sites, an independent web site that tracks the largest, fastest HPC deployments in the world. In 2005, when Top500.com started calculating which specific OS was dominating HPC, it found that Linux was used in nearly 80% of the world’s the fastest HPC systems.

The next TOP500 list will be released Nov. 13th (that’s tomorrow) during the Supercomputing Conference (SC07) in Reno, Nevada, but why wait until then for more Linux HPC goodness? UPDATE below: The list arrived early.

This morning our sister site SearchDataCenter.com broke the news that Sun Microsystems would be releasing two new systems designed to address the extreme computation, scale and storage requirements of today’s high-performance computing (HPC) customers. Called the Sun Constellation System the supercomputers are open computing environments that combine ultradense, high-performance compute, networking, storage, and software into an integrated “petascale” general-purpose system. Running Solaris, Linux and Microsoft Windows, the Sun Constellation System is designed to scale from departmental clusters to the largest supercomputer configurations, enabling customers to solve complex computational problems, the company said.

And that’s the first big Linux news of the day. Apparently, Constellation’s first user is the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), which will put the finishing touches on a 504 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraflop) compute cluster in December. This CentOS Linux Cluster, named Ranger, will have 3,936 nodes, 123 terabytes of memory and 62,976 processor cores from AMD Opteron quad-core processors. All system components will be connected via a full-Clos InfiniBand interconnect. Eighty-two compute racks will house the infrastructure, which will sit in TACC’s J.J. Pickle Research Campus in Austin, Texas. IDC seems to think Constellation will make a pretty big impact in the HPC space. We’ll have to keep an eye out for it on future Top500 lists.

But wait, there’s more! According to 451 Group analyst and CAOS Theory blogger Jay Lyman, last week supercomputer superpower Cray rolled out its super scalable XT5 supercomputer and wouldn’t you know it, the thing runs Linux. It’s apparently the company’s biggest use of Linux to date, with Cray using AMD quad-core processors in a configuration of more than 1,000 CPUs to top 40 teraflops of performance. “As far as I know this is the highest density of Opterons you can buy in a system,” said Jan Silverman, senior vice president of corporate strategy, in an interview with EFTimes.com.

But let’s not forget about Microsoft’s HPC endeavors in the midst of all this Linux HPC love. Microsoft’s Windows Computer Cluster Server (CCS) is designed for the lower end of the HPC market, and industry watchers said the technology has been well received, particularly for small computing clusters. Vendors too have jumped onto the Windows CCS bandwagon, including HP, which extended a multimillion-dollar investment agreement with Microsoft to drive HPC into the mass market. It is also selling CCS 2003 as part of its HP Unified Cluster Portfolio, and Fujitsu Computer Products of America Inc., which recently published a best-practices paper for HPC cluster deployment, is using Microsoft Windows instead of Linux. But I’m still willing to bet that Linux has a lock on the list tomorrow. Call it an educated hunch.

Like I said, the list hits tomorrow at SC07. Let the chips fall where they may (and that’s a lot of chips — lolz!)

UPDATE: Or we could just have the list today. It’s out at 2:45 p.m. EST. Blue Gene again takes the top spot, but apparently there were plenty of surprises. More below…

From Top500.com (press release): The No. 1 position was again claimed by the BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Although BlueGene/L has occupied the No. 1 position since November 2004, the current system has been significantly expanded and now achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of now 478.2 TFop/s (“teraflops” or trillions of calculations per second), compared to 280.6 TFlop/s six months ago before its upgrade.

At No. 2 is a brand-new first installation of a newer version of the same type of IBM system. It is a BlueGene/P system installed in Germany at the Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) and it achieved performance of 167.3 TFlop/s.

The No. 3 system is not only new, but also the first system for a new supercomputing center, the New Mexico Computing Applications Center (NMCAC) in Rio Rancho, N.M. The system, built by SGI and based on the Altix ICE 8200 model, posted a speed of 126.9 TFlop/s.

For the first time ever, India placed a system in the Top 10. The Computational Research Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Ltd. in Pune, India, installed a Hewlett-Packard Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c system. They integrated this system with their own innovative routing technology and achieved 117.9 TFlop/s performance.

The No.5 system is also a new Hewlett-Packard Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c system and installed at a Swedish government agency. It was measured at 102.8 TFlop/s.

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