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Compaq, Sandia Labs Unveil 72-Node Cluster

The Tandem Division of Compaq Computer Corp. (Cupertino, Calif., www.tandem.com) and Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N.M., www.sandia.gov), this week unveiled a 72-node, 144-processor Windows NT cluster.

The system is named "Kudzu," for the perennial vine that tends to grow in every direction.

Carl Diegert, a scientist at Sandia, says the cluster will be used to sort through the data produced by supercomputer-based simulations being conducted by other machines at the research center. "What we’re going to do is data management and visualization of the results of these simulations. Because the simulation results are so large, we can’t warehouse the results for 20 simulations [on the machine that runs the simulations]. That’s what Kudsu does for us."

Tandem and Sandia programmers configured the system to run a benchmark test so-called the 1 Terabyte Sort. The benchmark was used to gauge just how fast the configuration was in comparison to the one other machine -- a 32-processor Silicon Graphics Origin2000 system -- that was configured to run such a test.

During the sorting test, only 68 of the 72 nodes were installed. The system uses Windows NT Workstation 4.0 with Service Pack 3 installed on most of the nodes, and Windows NT Server on the controlling node.

The NT cluster, built with 400 MHz Pentium II Compaq ProLiant 1850R dual-processor systems, completed the 1 TB sorting operation in under 50 minutes. By comparison, the Silicon Graphics Origin2000 configuration performed essentially the same 1 TB sort in 2 hours and 32 minutes.

The Kudzu machine is built using ServerNet I technology supplied by Tandem. ServerNet I is an interconnect system that is normally used in configurations of 6 nodes or less, supporting Tandem’s Windows NT-based clusters more typically used for commercial transaction processing. ServerNet I includes software extensions that allow it to support the Intel Virtual Interface (VI) architecture, and provides the high-speed node-to-node communication technology that enables the configuration of a 72-node cluster. –Al Gillen, Editor in Chief

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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