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DESKTOP HPC
➤ The low-end market has been A third member of the club offering four
underserved and users have been Tesla cards with dual Nehalem processors
intimidated says Cray’s Miller. Now it’s no in a tower is Colfax with its CXT5000. The
longer so scary, especially with tools such vendor does note that you can use the four
as Windows Cluster Server 2008 and the Tesla cards only under Linux; Windows
Intel Cluster Ready (ICR) programme. requires a discrete graphics card and in
Configuring a desktop HPC system isn’t that case you can add a maximum of three
simply a matter of putting parts together; GPUs.
making them interact can be a daunting Further companies with a similarly
task. Even with a standard desktop PC configured tower include Velocity Micro
users can have problems with a disk drive with its ProMagix VSC240 and Transtec
or its driver, and Miller adds that matters with its 1100R Nehalem supercomputer,
become considerably more complex when which uses vertical rails to accommodate
you have a whole bunch of ‘moving parts’. two server cards in a 1U format.
With ICR, the burden of integration falls While four appears to be the maximum
on the vendors; users are assured that number of Tesla cards you can plug into
hardware and software elements all work a tower, according to the Nvidia website
together, applications will scale and take Amax PSC-2n there are even more suppliers offering
advantage of advanced architectures. personal supercomputers with three
Huang further explains that the Tesla cards. They start with some of the
Almost 1,000 cores in a tower education and research markets are players already mentioned (Amax, Colfax
A recent article in Scientific Computing World showing great interest in Tesla systems, but and Velocity Micro) and then go on to
(‘A supercomputer chip for every man’, Feb/ that the biggest obstacle is on the software include Microway (WhisperStation PSC)
Mar 2009) gives an extensive introduction side. The cost savings with hardware and Penguin Computing (Niveus HTX).
into the amazing performing boosts possible are sometimes offset by the software- Another member of this group is Silicon
with GPGPUs (general-purpose graphic development costs where it might be Mechanics with its HPCg A2401, which
processing units), and Nvidia has packaged necessary to recode 30 per cent of existing is based on a quad-core AMD Phenom II
one of its processors in a card format that it programs to take advantage of the Tesla processor; note, though, that loading three
supplies to various system integrators. Each parallel processing. He also adds that GPU cards results in each PCIe x16 slot
Tesla card provides 240 computing cores these desktop HPC systems are sometimes operating at x8 speeds – something worth
and 1 teraflop of performance, and software used as a proof of concept for GPGPU examining no matter which vendor you are
written to run on GPGPUs has been shown computing, later leading to a full-on cluster looking at.
to run as much as 100x faster than on a deployment. Nvidia additionally points out that
conventional processor. several major OEMs provide Tesla-based
A popular configuration among desktop personal supercomputers including the
HPC suppliers is one that combines HP Z800, the Dell Precision T5500 and
dual quad-core Xeon 5500 Series T7500 as well as the Lenovo ThinkStation
(Nehalem) processors in a tower that can D20 and S20. Consider the Z800 in more
accommodate as many as four Tesla cards detail. This tower configuration comes with
for a total of 960 cores and 4 teraflops of two CPU sockets and thus 8 cores using
performance. Prices for such systems are Nehalem processors and it also has support
approximately $12k depending on features for Intel Hyper-Threading Technology with
such as disk space and memory. Super Micro Computer 7046GT-TRF thread-level parallelism on each processor
One supplier in this category is Amax, to give you essentially 16 cores. You can
which product manager James Huang Along similar lines, Super Micro pack the system with up to 192GB of
notes was selected as one of Nvidia’s Computer recently announced a 4-teraflop memory and 7.5TB of disk storage, Nvidia
Tesla launch partners with the PSC-2n tower system based on dual Xeon 5500 Quadro FX graphics and the box can also
personal supercomputer. Its 1,200W power processors with support for four Tesla cards accommodate two Tesla cards, as well.
supply runs on 110 to 240V AC without along with three additional PCIe slots HP also points out that at this time the
any special cooling. In fact, notes Huang, for high-bandwidth I/O. The box also Z800 is the only workstation certified for
because each Tesla card can consume as features redundant 93 per cent efficiency Parallels Workstation Extreme, software
much as 200W, heat requirements mean 1,400W power supplies. The 7046GT-TRF that runs multiple isolated desktops
that you can’t simply adapt any old chassis is housed in a 4U rack-mount convertible environments simultaneously. You can
for such a system; these must be custom tower chassis that supports as many as 11 run multiple operating systems − whether
designed with adequate cooling for all full-height, full length expansion cards and 32- or 64-bit XP, Vista, Windows 7 or even
system components. eight hot-swap 3.5-inch SAS/SATA drives. Linux − to support different applications ➤
28
SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009 www.scientific-computing.com
SCWoct09 pp26-31 HPC desktop.indd 28 10/1/09 12:47:05 PM
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