Concept Computing – the Silicon Graphics Molecule

Silicon Graphics News

Concept cars have been around for a while. Every major motorshow, and vendors let their designers loose and parade around the results. Some of them are received so well they are actually made – I love the design that became the Lancia Stratos. Silicon Graphics seem to be going down this path with a fantastic piece of R&D madness at the Supercomputing 08 show.

Silicon Graphics have come up with the Molecule – 10,000 CPU cores in a single rack. Molecule uses the low power Intel Atom processor, which is more familiar from netbooks like the Asus EEE PC.

Silicon Graphics Molecule concept computer

Much like Sun’s UltraSPARC T1 and T2 CPUs, such a high density of Atoms within a single system image would give massive horizontal scalability for multi-threaded applications – although Sun have yet to approach this sort of density.

SGI reckon Molecule has the following advantages:

  • High concurrency with 20,000 threads of execution — 40 times more than a single rack x86 cluster system
  • High throughput with 15TB/sec of memory bandwidth per rack — over 20 times faster than a single rack x86 cluster system
  • Greater balance with up to three times the memory bandwidth/OPS compared to current x86 CPUs
  • High performance with approximately 3.5 times the computational performance per rack
  • Greener with low-watt consumer CPUs and low-power memory that deliver 7 times better memory bandwidth/watt
  • Innovative Silicon Graphics Kelvin cooling technology, which enables denser packaging by stabilizing thermal operations in densely configured solutions

Molecule is still only a concept, but it’s cool for a number of reasons. First off it shows SGI are still capable of some pretty awesome R&D hackery. It could also point the way for the next generation of SGI’s single system image machines, like the Altix 4700s. You can check out the full press release at

After the sad demise of Orion and their deskside super-cluster, maybe this will be the future of massively scalable computing? And with FPGAs becoming part of a large scale install, is this the fruit of Project Ultraviolet?

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Could SGI be taken private?

Silicon Graphics News

An interesting article has popped up on The Register by Timothy Morgan, where he argues that the tech stock slide produced by the ongoing credit crisis has provided a perfect time for large, established – and exposed – technology companies to take themselves private.

The usual R&D heavy suspects are discussed – Sun, Cray – and Silicon Graphics.

Silicon Graphics, once a high-flying Unix workstation and supercomputer maker, should also think about going private. The company’s shares trade on the small cap portion of the NASDAQ exchange, and it has a market capitalization of $101m as we go to press. In the first six months of 2008, SGI posted sales of $172.9m but booked losses of $74.9m. The company had just under $40m in cash as the June quarter closed.

It could be possible, especially with continued strong government contracts and continued interest from large investors.

What do you think?

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