TOP500 news – Silicon Graphics make number 3 with Pleiades

Silicon Graphics News
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Supercomputing 2008 kicks off this week, and that means a new update to the Top 500 list.

IBM have given RoadRunner a shot in the arm, boosting sustained Linpack performance to 1.105 petaflops, up from it’s previous best of 1.026.

Cray have done a good job with Jaguar, moving from XT4 frames with a sustained 205 teraflops, to XT5 frames, boosting sustained performance to 1.059 petaflops.

Silicon Graphics come in at third place, with the Pleiades Altix ICE cluster, which they put together for NASA’s Ames Research Center. At 51200 cores and 51TB of memory it’s a bit of a beast, although as a cluster it’s a bit less interesting than a Single System Image (SSI) machine.

SGI‘s Pleiades manages to sustain 487 teraflops, pushing BlueGene/L into fourth place. The previous supercomputer Silicon Graphics built for NASA Ames, Columbia, languishes down in 39th place, which should give some idea of the immense scale of performance improvements taking place.

You can grab the full system stats for Pleiades from http://www.top500.org/system/9832

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More global shared memory on SGI Altix 4700 systems

Silicon Graphics News
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Silicon Graphics have just announced that more global shared memory is available with fewer CPUs on their Altix 4700 systems. Increased DIMM density now means you can get an Altix 4700 with 2TB of memory, with only 8 processors.

If you’ve got applications that require large amounts of memory but not much in the way of compute-intensive processes, this is very good news indeed.

Global shared memory is memory which is accessible from all processors/cores. So in an SGI Altix with 1024 processors and 4TB of RAM, any one of the 1024 CPUs can access any part of that 4TB of memory. This is due to the design of Silicon Graphics’ large scale systems, which are Single System Image (SSI) machines – all resources are shared.

Clusters work in a different way, where each node has ‘local’ CPU and memory, and this can’t be accessed from another node.

Both SSI and clusters can scale, but in different ways and with different workloads. Shared memory jobs, where you’re doing lots of memory I/O and you can peg your dataset in physical RAM, don’t scale well with clusters, whereas rendering (where discrete jobs can be chopped up and executed in batches) are just right for clusters but not SSI machines.

With lots of memory density enhancements coming down the line, I’m wondering when Silicon Graphics will break through the 4TB system memory barrier?

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How to scale a Terabyte in-memory database?

Performance
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McObject are one of those database vendors who you don’t normally hear of, but who are really pushing the boundaries of what can be done with your data.

Their product, extremeDB-64, is written to take advantage of large memory systems by pegging the entire dataset in physical RAM. The advantages are pretty obvious – as are the downsides as well. The McObject guys have really thought about the problems, though, and extremeDB-64 is an impressive database solution.

What’s more impressive is McObject’s recent benchmark and scalability testing, where they test a 1.17 Terabyte, 15.54 billion row in-memory database on a 160-core SGI Altix 4700 server. They measured transaction throughput of up to 87.78 million query transactions per second, which is the sort of uber data-warehousing capability I know a number of businesses would love to get their hands on.

The benchmark white paper is available as a free download – head on over to this page to enter your details.

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Silicon Graphics gets a new CFO – Kathy Lanterman is leaving

Silicon Graphics News
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Kathy Lanterman has been CFO at Silicon Graphics since 2006, having been with the company over 10 years. She’s due to step down on November 10th, and will stay for a few weeks to help the transition to the new CFO. Kathy had been a VP and corporate controller since early 2002.

Replacing her is Greg Wood, who’s a bit of a wild card. He doesn’t appear to have much of a background with ‘hard’ technology companies, with a portfolio that includes marketing, DRM and interactive TV companies. He’s held executive financial positions for over 25 years, so clearly has lots of experience – but will this be a case of more new blood that doesn’t understand SGI’s niche, or new talent that can help the company grow into new markets?

One of the first moves when a company comes out of Chapter 11 restructuring, or acquires new investors on the board, is a shuffle of senior positions while the new board members flex their muscle. It would be easy to say that this is why Kathy is leaving, but she’s had a pretty tumultuous ride during tough times at Silicon Graphics, so I can’t blame her at all for wanting some time off.

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Silicon Graphics announces Q1 2009 results

Silicon Graphics News
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Silicon Graphics have just announced their Q1 2009 financial results. Revenue and operating expenses are both down compared to Q4 2008, but are both up compared to Q1 2008.

Pro-forma results though show a loss of $7 million for Q1 2009, compared to a loss o $3 million for Q4 2008 and $3.8 million for Q1 2008.

With Sun’s recent financial results as well, it’s clear that this quarter is a less than stellar one for R&D heavy tech firms. The real test will be to see how both Sun and SGI perform in the next quarter, as the knock on effects of the credit crisis really start to bite.

With the launch of VUE and good sales of the Oracle datawarehouse solution based on Altix 450s, I think Silicon Graphics could make some good sales in the next quarter. An upcoming restructuring of the Global Developer Program and the continued push to get ISVs and IHVs on board is really going to help here – and, to be honest, it’s something they should have been doing years ago.

The lack of focus on large scale database systems for business basically meant Silicon Graphics handed the datacentre on a plate to Sun, who stepped in with the E10k and the awesome F15k.

You can also find an entire transcript of the conference call online at http://seekingalpha.com/article/104042-silicon-graphics-q1-2009-earnings-call-transcript

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