Sun to challenge IBM with new “Constellation” supercomputer

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Austin (TX) – Sun has announced a new supercomputer system that promises to leapfrog mere teraflops.  The “Constellation” system with dense blade servers and a centralized core switch can eventually achieve 1.7 petaflops – that’s one thousand trillion operations per second.

The supercomputer is actually a group of computer cores distributed through dozens of racks and connected with an insane switch with up to 3456 ports.  Each full-sized rack can contain up to 768 Ultrasparc, AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon cores.  Each blade within the core can have up to 64 GB of RAM.

The centralized switch connects the racks in a star-like configuration, hence the Constellation name.  According to Sun, this system allows a 300 to 1 reduction in the number of switch racks and a 6 to 1 reduction in cables.  Sun also says less racks are required for the same computing power.

The Texas Advanced Computer Center at the University of Texas in Austin is currently building a Constellation system and expects the computer to break 500 teraflops.  This would be almost twice as fast as the reigning speed demon the IBM Blue Gene computer at the Department of Energy.  IBM isn’t standing still, however, and has just announced its Blue Gene/P supercomputer which will calculate at 1 petaflop when it is built at Department of Energy lab in Argonne, Illinois.