Dell powers up clustered server program

Dell Computer Corp. on Monday launched its High-Performance Computing Clusters (HPCC) program in an effort that feeds growing demand for using inexpensive, commodity-grade processors for high-performance, clustered computing environments.

The HPCC program will offer pre-configured arrays of Dell's Intel-based, rack-mounted servers and storage products tuned specifically for compute-intensive applications found in scientific research, engineering, and financial modeling, said Karl Chin, the director of enterprise software marketing for Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas.

Such applications have traditionally been relegated to non-Intel platforms using RISC-based chips, which cost more than Intel Corp.'s products.

However, the evolution of Intel's processors is gradually attracting high-performance computer users who look to the Intel chips for their inherent cost savings when working with sometimes hundreds or thousands of processor nodes, said Debra Goldfarb, the group vice president of worldwide systems and servers at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Expanding the market for Dell's HPCC products, Dell entered into an agreement Monday with supercomputer stalwart Cray Inc., of Seattle, Wash. to have Cray re-sell HPCC systems side-by-side with Cray products for customers looking to save money by expanding their computing power with the Dell systems, according to Dell.

Available configurations of HPCC systems will span the entire gamut of Dell's dual-processor, rack dense servers from the PowerEdge 1550 to the 2550, and even Dell's PowerEdge 7150 which runs Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip, said Chin.

"We're putting together HPCC bundles that support both Windows and Linux, and the goal is to go after the 8-way to 128-way configuration market," said Chin.

An 8-way HPCC server configuration from Dell starts at US$75,000.

Software and service packages from Dell and partnering MPI Software Technology Inc. are available under HPCC, according to Dell. MPI is a Starksville, Miss.-based software technology company that specializes in high-performance clustered computing in Windows and Linux environments.

Improvements to Intel chips over the course of the last two years have made supercomputing tasks running on Intel processors more commonplace, according to those familiar with the technology.

The growing popularity of Intel-based clusters running Linux was a key topic at last week's LinuxWorld trade show in New York City. And both Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are in the process of migrating their high-performance operating environments from RISC-based platforms to Intel-based systems.

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