SGI gives the military its first petaflop supercomputer (that we know of)

The beast would instantly be among the top 10 supercomputers in the world when completed.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has picked SGI to build a new petaflop supercomputer, due to be delivered by next spring, as part of its High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). The new computer will enhance the compute capabilities of the DoD Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Yes, our military loves its acronyms.

The HPCMP is meant to improve mission-critical research and drive innovation throughout the Armed Forces. With a theoretical peak performance of 4.6 petaflops of compute power, the ICE X computer is the fastest non-classified supercomputer in the military.

“We are excited to once again partner with SGI. With a theoretical peak performance of 4.6 Petaflops, the SGI ICE X system will triple the ERDC DSRC's current compute capability,” said Bobby Hunter, director of the ERDC DSRC in a statement.

That speed would also make the computer number six in the world on the Top 500 supercomputer list, although that's likely to change with a new list coming in the next few weeks. The Supercomputing '14 show will run November 16-21 in New Orleans, a switch from the usual host site, Portland, Oregon.

The really remarkable part is that the ICE X is that it achieves these figures on pure CPU power. Most of the top 10 supercomputers are using either Nvidia GPUs or Intel's Xeon Phi, Intel's co-processor that is often partnered with Xeon chips. ICE X achieves its numbers purely from Xeon E5-2600 v3 products, based on the new Haswell architecture. ICE X can be configured to run Xeon Phi but this system is not using them.

The system will also come with 12 petabytes of storage through an SGI InfiniteStorage 5600 based on NetApp E-Series technology, running Intel Enterprise Edition for Lustre. The servers run SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 11 and custom SGI clustering software.

The equipment will be installed in a new data center at the ERDC Information Technology Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi. SGI says it will enable real-time analytics, something not available via the previous systems.

This isn't the SGI of old, that made the dinosaurs of "Jurassic Park." After twisting in the wind for a while, the company merged with Rackable Systems in 2009 and Rackable did something very rare: it assumed the name of the company it acquired. Usually the reverse happens.

Since then, the company has flown under the radar, making supercomputers using x86 processors but built on some of the advanced fabric architecture of SGI, like its NUMA memory architecture for massive scale-out processing. It won't have the biggest presence on the Top 500 list but it will be there, and many of its systems will be near the top of the list.

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