The Most Beautiful Supercomputer in the World

Mirrored from The Navel of Narcissus.

Sorry everyone, but I'm not talking about Ranger, Sun's 500 TFLOP system which is still a-birthing at TACC in Texas. More on Ranger and Sun's Constellation System in the second half of this entry...

With my supercomputer-as-art background from Thinking Machines, I'm perhaps pre-disposed to appreciate nicely done computers and computer installations. I was blown away when I saw the photos below of MareNostrum, currently the 9th largest supercomputer in the world and the largest in Europe, which is installed in a former chapel at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). Wow.

MareNostrum's Myrinet interconnect fabric requires four cabinets. Myricom did a nice job of reducing the cable count as much as they could by using quad-link ribbon cables between their switch elements. But with 12 separate switch elements in the fabric that means they still have a lot of cables and more cables means more connectors, more points of potential failure. They also use one cable per compute node, as is typically done in cluster configurations. Lots more cables, lots more connectors.

Contrast this with Sun's Constellation System approach, which uses one large, ultra-dense InfiniBand switch (therefore no inter-switch cabling) and node connections that are bundled three per-cable and connected directly to Constellation's ultra-dense blade chassis. This takes complexity management to the next level and makes petascale computing systems an achievable goal.

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