Supercomputing, One Server at a Time

Sun Microsystems and America Online (AOL) are planning to take their relationship to the supercomputing level with plans next year for a global, peer-to-peer supercomputer comprised of multiple Sun server clusters connected along AOL pipes, according to sources close to Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun.

The plan calls for a series of geographically dispersed clusters of Sun's fastest server, the Enterprise 10000, linked together over the Internet via AOL's network. The various servers would then interact in real time to run the same application or solve the same problem faster.

Such a global network would be one of the first steps in fulfilling the promise of Sun's Net Effect initiative announced last September, a source said.

That initiative challenged customers to begin thinking of their entire network as a single computing device that can expand outwards to interact with, and gain performance from, other computer networks -- an idea Sun officials call virtual scalability.

Sun has chosen to bring the first real Net Effect applications to the realm of supercomputing in the belief that it will allow the technology to trickle down to the mid-range and lower-end servers, a source said.

At the Supercomputing 2000 show in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 6-8, Sun is demonstrating a small-scale version of a peer-to-peer computing network.

"It is clear that the future of supercomputing is network-centric, and lies in both the shared power of smaller, parallel Web-serving systems and large, cooperating clusters of SMP servers," said Steve Campbell, the director of marketing for Sun's Enterprise Systems division, in a press release.

The supercomputing effort builds on the existing relationship between Sun and Dulles, Virginia-based AOL. The two companies joined forces in March 1999 to form iPlanet, a network computing company.

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