Cyclone – SGI’s Technical Compute Cloud

Silicon Graphics News

It seems SGI has joined everyone and their dog in jumping on the cloud bandwagon. SGI have just announced Cyclone, their Cloud Computing offering for technical and HPC computing.

The offering is non virtualised (what’s called “single tenancy”) which addresses the main stumbling block to using cloud compute resources for HPC – the overhead of that virtualisation layer. The other stumbling block – how to actually get your data onto the cloud – is addressed by being able to ship drives of data direct to SGI, who will preload it into your compute instance for you.

On the hardware side, Cyclone offers a nice possibility of “try before buy” for compute customers, with SGI’s entire product range available, packed with some GPU and accelerator goodness:

The SGI technology at Cyclone’s core is comprised of some of the world’s fastest supercomputing hardware architectures, including SGI® Altix® scale-up, Altix® ICE scale-out and Altix® XE hybrid clusters, all based on Intel® Xeon® or Itanium® processors. The hybrid architecture offers either NVIDIA® Tesla GPUs or AMD FireStream™ GPU compute accelerators for floating point double precision workloads, and Tilera accelerators for integer workloads. High performance SGI InfiniteStorage systems are available for scratch space and long-term archival of customer data.

Itanium and x86 offerings would offer customers a great way to port their apps from Itanium and onto the new Altix UV platform. But I’m sure SGI would never have done that intentionally. Ahem.

On the software side, SGI will be pre-installing many commonly used technical computing applications:

With Cyclone’s SaaS (Software as a Service) model, SGI delivers access to leading-edge open source applications and best-of-breed commercial software platforms from top Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). Supported applications include: OpenFOAM, NUMECA, Acusolve, LS-Dyna, Gaussian, Gamess, NAMD, Gromacs, LAMMPS, BLAST, FASTA, HMMER, ClustalW and OntoStudio. SGI expects to add additional domains and applications partners over time

SGI are mixing it up with Penguin and NewServers, coming in at a higher price but arguably offering more value by pre-loading software, and enabling users to migrate to in-house SGI hardware later on down the line. Costs are also high compared to Amazon, but really, I can’t see anyone putting HPC or technical compute apps on Amazon’s offering.

You can read more in SGI’s press release here.

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SGI® Deploys ICE Cube™ Modular Data Center at Colocation Leader i/o Data Centers

Silicon Graphics News

It seems that data centres in a box are taking off in a big way, but SGI lead the field purely because they’ve chosen the best name for their offering – behold the ICE Cube.

SGI® (NASDAQ:SGI) announced today that it recently shipped its ICE Cube™ modular data center to i/o Data Centers, a leading colocation and data center services provider based in Phoenix, Arizona, to address i/o clients’ evolving data center needs. The ICE Cube is secured, powered and connected to i/o Data Centers’ network.

The specs are pretty impressive – an ICE Cube can hold up to 2,800 servers, fielding 22,400 cores. Or you can it it out with up to 11 Petabytes of storage.

With the rising cost of deploying data centres, and the increase in hype around cloud computing, we should be seeing a big increase in the deployments of these sorts of solutions.

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Breathing new life into those old Silicon Graphics machines


Silicon Graphics have always made great workstations. I’m not just talking about brutal 3D monsters that could apply video feeds as textures in real time (over a decade ago). The machines are responsive and balanced, and this makes them perfect for general desktop use.

My Octane can’t be bogged down no matter what I throw at it, and since I upgraded to a Fuel I’ve found it almost impossible to overwhelm it. Annoyingly, too, as it means when I’m on the road and using my Macbook, I’m constantly frustrated by a gutless machine with a glitzy UI that gets in the way and slows things down.

With IRIX officially dead, the Open Source community is the only place any sort of IRIX-related development is happening. The crew over at Nekochan have developed Nekoware, an entire distribution of Open Source apps ported to IRIX, tuned and optimised for MIPS.

More power to the IRIX desktop, then. However, exciting changes are afoot, and it bodes well for older machines. Maybe it’s my UNIX background, but I don’t subscribe to the whole upgrade, upgrade, upgrade cycle that seems to define the PC industry. About 75% of all my work is done on kit that’s at over 5 years old. And I’m not talking scripting or coding, I’m talking web development, writing white papers and proposals, creating presentations, managing websites – all the baggage that goes along with running your own business.

What does cloud computing mean to you? With Microsoft’s recent talk about Windows 7 and a cloud version of Office, along with Google Apps, what do you actually need to have a productive and up-to-date desktop system, that can share files and data with anyone?

Turns out, it’s just a web browser. And what better platform to run a browser than the one used to serve out that first version of Netscape Navigator – IRIX.

So if you have an old Silicon Graphics machine – or you’ve got the chance to acquire one – grab the latest Nekoware release, and start playing with all those cool apps in the cloud. If we’re all going to have terminals again, well – they can be powerful and stylish ones.

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