SGI to announce fourth quarter earnings

Silicon Graphics News


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How much of an impact has the new Altix UV, along with the Octane 3 and Origin 400, actually had for SGI? Now’s the time to find out, with the announcement of their fourth quarter earnings call.

SGI (NASDAQ:SGI), a global leader in HPC and data center solutions, today announced it will report financial results for the Company’s fourth quarter and fiscal 2010 on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 after the close of the market. A live webcast of the earnings conference call will be held that day at 2:00 p.m. PT (5:00 p.m. ET).

The public is invited to listen to a live web cast of the call on the Investor Relations section of the Company’s website at investors.sgi.com. A replay of the web cast will be available approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call and will remain available until the next earnings call. An audio replay of the conference call will also be made available approximately two hours after the conclusion of the call. The audio replay will remain available for five days and can be accessed by dialing (706) 645-9291 or (800) 642-1687 and entering the confirmation code: 90230680.

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SGI Altix UV 1000 sets Java application benchmark

Performance, Silicon Graphics News


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Recent test results announced by SGI are touting the Altix UV 1000 as the world’s fastest Java application server. While I love the Altix UV and think it’s a cracking bit of kit, this result highlights how useless benchmarks are.

SGI claim:

  • SGI Altix UV 1000, with 256 cores and 128 JVMs, beat ScaleMP, its nearest competitor, by 82 percent in Java performance with throughput of 12,665,917 BOPS using Oracle JRockit.
  • SGI Altix UV 1000, with 256 cores, beat Fujitsu/Sun, its nearest competitor, by 60 percent with a single Oracle Java HotSpot JVM performance of 2,818,350 BOPS.

As Darth Vader says – “Impressive. Most impressive.” – but lets look at those figures in more detail. A 256 core Altix UV 1000 running 128 JVMs? Who on earth would buy a massive single system image machine, with massive shared memory performance, and then carve it up with hundreds of JVMs – which are pegged to cores?

This is nonsense. Far better to pick a smaller machine – say, an Altix UV 100 – which would much more realistically be used for this sort of task. Or an Altix XE cluster, which would give both good parallelism and also high availability.

Joerg Mollenkamp has even more details, comparing these results to those of a Sun T5440. The price difference is extreme, leading to some embarrassing price/performance comparisons, which also highlights how meaningless these sort of benchmark results really are.

There’s no doubt those are some cracking results from the Altix UV 1000. But they’re meaningless, pie in the sky figures, and I can safely say anyone who ordered one of those to run Java apps on would be laughed at, and then fired on the spot.

A far more meaningful result I’d like to see from SGI would be pitching the Altix UV where it really needs to go – into the corporate data centre. Let’s see some data warehouse figures using Oracle and Sybase for big data workloads that can take advantage of all that fast, shared memory.

SGI need to move out of the pure HPC play for their big kit, and add in more sales to big business. (They’ve need to do this since the first big Origins came out, but that’s a rant for another day). This means playing to the kits strength, and posting JVM benchmarks like this accomplishes nothing apart from opening them up to some – very valid – criticism.

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Advanced HPC training from hpctraining.com

Silicon Graphics News, supercomputing


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SGI have announced the launch of hpctraining.com, which they bill as the “industry’s first one-stop-shop website for advanced HPC training”. With the range of courses and training SGI are offering, they could well be on to something.

Hpctraining.com provides coursework in the following areas:

  • System Administration
  • Network Administration
  • Cluster Administration
  • Storage Administration
  • Visualization
  • Applications/Software Development

One of the key things from my point of view is that the courses aren’t just on-site ones – there are also an increasing number of e-learning courses. For people wanting to break into HPC there are two main barriers – not being able to play with HPC-class kit, and not having the time to learn up about it. Computer based courses and simulators are the way to go for this.

hpctraining.com isn’t an SGI only effort, though. The partner list includes:

  • Adaptive Computing
  • Atempo
  • CAPS
  • Intel
  • LSI
  • Novell
  • Octality
  • Oracle University
  • Panasas
  • Platform Computing
  • Red Hat
  • SGI
  • Spectralogic

There’s a lot on offer here and I think it’s a great initiative for existing or budding HPC people. I’m also pleased to see SGI are still offering IRIX courses.

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SGI Announces Strategic AMD Processor Adoption Plan

Silicon Graphics News


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Catching up on some SGI news, and along with the details of some nifty new storage products (more on those soon) the really interesting news is that SGI have announced a new partnership with AMD.

Day-one support for the new AMD Opteron 6000 series platforms is offered across SGI’s entire design-to-order server portfolio, including CloudRack™ and Rackable™ scale-out servers and SGI® InfiniteStorage servers. The ICE Cube™ modular data center also supports AMD Opteron processors for the first time.

It’s not just the old Rackable gear which is getting some AMD love – the ‘proper’ SGI product line is also getting Opterons:

As part of SGI’s increased commitment to AMD processor support, SGI expects to release AMD Opteron processor-based configurations of its Altix® ICE high performance computing (HPC) clusters and Octane™ III personal supercomputer later this year. Similarly, the SGI HPC cluster software stack will also be available on the AMD Opteron platform for the first time.

No mention of AMD support for the Altix, which is odd. When Silicon Graphics first said they were dropping the MIPS Origins and moving to Intel processors, the first thought was – why not AMD? AMD had a credible NUMA connect – Hypertransport – whereas Intel’s x86 offerings were still stuck with legacy bus interconnects. Itanium was too much of a wild card – but SGI drank the cool aid and embarked on a painful path.

You just need to have a look at Cray, who have managed a successful transition to AMD cores, and done pretty well out of it, to see what might have been. Cray clearly had the better idea – migrate to AMD and Hypertransport, plugging it into their own NUMA interconnect, and then drop in Intel x86 chips when they finally mature.

Nehalem is the long overdue x86 with a sensible NUMA interconnect, and Cray are well positioned to take advantage of the manufacturing scale. SGI’s use of AMD Opterons seems long overdue, and the timing is odd now that AMD seem to be struggling to keep Opterons performing well against the new Nehalems.

Could SGI be hedging their bets, opening up customer choice with AMD at the low end, and seeing how things pan out before plugging Opteron in to the high end Altix? Or are they treading carefully with Intel to secure higher performing Nehalem Xeon chips for the high end?

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Origin 400 is indeed a real product, and it’s now here

Silicon Graphics News


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SGI have announced the Origin 400 workgroup server – properly announced, this time round. Unlike last week’s accidental Origin 400 announcement, this is the real deal.

BBB9FA77-B348-457A-9359-F5223DB862DD.jpg

The Origin 400 looks like a solid bit of kit. Up to a total of 6 blades can be fitted, each one able to take two Intel Xeon quad- or six-core 5500 or the just announced 5600 series. 96gb of RAM per blade for a total of 576GB in the chassis, and space for up to 14 2.5″ SAS drives. The spec sheet also says it supports up to two ‘redundant Ethernet switch modules’, each with 10 gigabit ethernet ports – each blade is specced with 2 GigE ports, so I’m wondering if these ‘switch modules’ are for exporting the storage as NAS.

The specs on each CPU blade sound suspiciously like those in the Octane III – are they interchangeable?

You can view the full press release here and the Origin 400 product pages here.

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