Sun opens "compute ranch" for new UltraSparc designs

Sun Microsystems Inc. opened a research center dedicated to developing new designs for its UltraSparc processors in Burlington, Massachusetts, on Wednesday. The "compute ranch," as Sun calls it, will feature more than 7,500 UltraSparc nodes running batch jobs 24 hours a day, the company said.

The new center allows Sun to manage the complex number of calculations needed to simulate the interactions of millions of transistors on future UltraSparc chips, it said. On a typical day, Sun's hardware designers submit about 140,000 jobs to the network, which would require about 15 years to process on a single processor, it said.

Not surprisingly, Sun chose to use its own products throughout the center, including Sun servers, workstations, network storage products, and Sun Ray desktops. The grid also runs Sun's Solaris operating system.

Grid computing allows individual tasks to be broken down into thousands of independent parts, which are allocated across a network of processors by software that seeks out unused processors. The tasks are then reassembled, and delivered back to the user.

Most grid-computing environments are used for heavy computational work that requires a great deal of processor power, such as financial modeling or geographic mapping for oil or gas companies.

This center is Sun's third compute ranch. The Santa Clara, California, company also operates grids in Sunnyvale, California, and Austin, Texas. Sun's forthcoming UltraSparc IIIi and UltraSparc IV are the primary projects currently under development, the company said.

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