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August 21, 2008

The Week in Review

by John E. West

Here’s a collection of highlights, selected totally subjectively, from this week’s HPC news stream as reported at and HPCwire.

>>10 words and a link

Linux Mag article on the value of cluster standards;

The Register suggests that Microsoft’s cloud may be thin;

RPI to award 150M hours to state businesses, schools;

Canada’s largest super to be POWER, Intel hybrid;

Sun announces new Intel-based HPC server;

AnandTech covers Nehalem;

Santa Catarina Utilizes SGI for Oil and Gas Production Research;

Pitt leads in study on use of vaccines, HPC key;

IMSL Python wrappers released;

Intel briefs chip futures at IDF;

>>Intel’s Parallel Studio

Wednesday at IDF Intel announced what promises to be a significant tool in the education of the millions of developers who are now faced with having to engineer, or re-engineer, C and C++ software on Windows for multicore parallelism. From coverage at Go Parallel:

On August 20, Intel announced an ambitious new suite of products to expand Microsoft Visual Studio, the leading IDE for C/C++ developers, and ease parallel adoption for client-side applications. Intel Parallel Studio addresses the design, coding, debugging and tuning phases of development, respectively, with Parallel Advisor, Parallel Composer, Parallel Inspector and Parallel Amplifier.

Not only will the unprecedented tool maximize multicore processors now, according to the company, it will “forward-scale” to the manycore processors of the future (including the Larrabee architecture). Community trial versions will begin before the end of this year, with products becoming available in mid-2009.

The Advisor product sounds really exciting. From James Reinders, director of Intel Software Development Products:

Yes, I think having Parallel Advisor with you will feel like having a guru working with you. Not doing the work for you, but giving you sage analysis and advice. Parallel Advisor is a new category of development product. Advisor helps you understand where to add parallelism to existing source code, and can show the consequences of those decisions. Advisor will be the fourth of the four Parallel Studio products. Betas will start rolling out about mid-Q4 2008 with updates and additions over the following six months.

The Go Parallel link includes a Q&A with James Reinders from Intel.

>>Rackable dumps storage business

Chris Mellor at Blocks & Files reported last week that Rackable is getting out of the clustered storage business.

Not that most people knew it was in the clustered storage business but Rackable has decided to sell its RapidScale clustered storage business. Taken with EMC, HP and IBM’s slowness in promoting their extreme scalability products it looks as if such products are very hard to get right, leaving Isilon in pole position.

Rackable also announced the news on its Web site on Thursday. To whom will the sale be made? That, evidently, isn’t clear:

And Rackable? Which storage systems supplier needs to buy a highly scalable clustered storage hardware and software development team and assets? A supplier with no product presumably and that would identify just three possible candidates: HDS; Sun; and possibly Dell, not a good selling environment for Rackable. Making extremely scalable storage work seems to be extremely hard work.

Rackable itself says it’s looking for a suitor and has subscribed to a dating service:

As discussed on the company’s recent Q2 earnings call, the decision was made to seek strategic alternatives for the RapidScale product and thus Strategic Advisory Services International, LLC has been retained as the financial advisor.

>>Panasas launches tiered parity product, new hardware

This week Panasas made several storage announcements. First, they’ve rolled the previously announced tiered parity solution in a shipping product. Then there are enhancements to existing hardware at the high end:

AS6000 – Designed to meet the needs of commercial organizations heavily invested in research and product development (R&D) for design, modeling and visualization, the AS6000 includes 20 GB cache per storage shelf with an integrated 10GigE switch that doubles the throughput performance per storage shelf to over 600 MB/s.

AS4000 – Designed primarily for companies dependent on simulation and analysis, like those in the oil & gas, aerospace and automotive sectors, the AS4000 includes an integrated 10GigE switch for unsurpassed speed, plus improved reliability and data availability with the Panasas Tiered Parity architecture.

The 6000 updates the AS5000 previous generation product, and the big advancements are the 10 GbE and 20 GB/shelf cache. Likewise the 4000 replaces the earliers AS3000 generation, and also has the new 10 GbE and a doubled cache/shelf (though this time to 10 GB, not 20). The company has also introduced was it calls the industry’s first parallel second-tier storage solution:

AS200 – The industry’s first parallel second-tier storage solution, the AS200 configuration includes 104 TBs of available storage space, 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports for fast data transfer, and Panasas Tiered Parity data protection. The solution extends parallel storage capabilities to second tier applications, providing a fully unified parallel storage platform for both primary and secondary storage and delivering improved performance, scalability and manageability.

Pricing ranges from $5/GB for the 6000, down to $1.2/GB on the 200. You’ll see that difference in the performance at the low end: where the 200 delivers 104 TB over 5 shelves with an aggregate bandwidth of 350 MB/s, the higher end products offer 600 MB/s per shelf.

You can find more details in this feature at HPCwire.


John West is part of the team that summarizes the headlines in HPC news every day at You can contact him at