NEC unveils smallest supercomputer yet

Hoping to broaden the market for supercomputers beyond universities and national research institutes, NEC Corp. has taken the wraps off a small supercomputer designed to sit next to a desk and serve a single office.

"Supercomputers are very expensive and we introduced this class of machine so that each laboratory and small organization can purchase one without having to have a special budget," said Kosuke Yamauchi, a spokesman for NEC. The machine costs 18 million yen (US$145,000) for the lower of the two models on offer.

Based on a single SX-6 microprocessor with performance of 8G FLOPS (floating point operations per second), the computer is available with either 4G bytes or 8G bytes of main memory that has a maximum data transfer rate of 32G bytes per second. It runs the Super-UX Unix-based operating system and supports Fortran 90/SX and C++/SX programming languages.

Beyond the low price, another advantage of the SX-6i is the architecture it shares with other supercomputers in NEC's SX-6 range, which was introduced in October. This means users are able to run any software written for SX-6 machines on the new computer, said the spokesman.

Physically, the deskside version of the machine measures 450 by 730 by 700 millimeters and weighs 100 kilograms. Two rack-mount versions are also available in 25U and 37U formats (1U = 1.75 inches).

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