SGI Recaps Customer Wins

By Nicole Hemsoth

October 28, 2005

With the first quarter of its fiscal year 2006 recently completed, Silicon Graphics Inc. has reviewed some customer wins and product milestones that underscore acceptance of the company's compute, storage and visualization solutions in vertical markets throughout the world.

During the quarter, SGI unveiled rack-mounted servers and storage systems featuring lowest-ever price tags and easily scalable form factors. The Altix 330 server and InfiniteStorage S330 storage array provide the best of two worlds: the advantages of expand-on-demand rack-mountable systems and the productivity boosts that come only with unique SGI high-performance server and storage advances — at price points suited for broader use.

Altix 330 server packs performance of a fast Linux server family into a compact 1U (1.75 inches high) high-density chassis. The workgroup-priced InfiniteStorage S330 storage array offers an entry point of $12,599, delivering high-end performance and functionality at less than half the price of previous SGI storage offerings.

The company also announced new hardware and software features for the InfiniteStorage TP9700, with its 4Gb Fibre Channel interface. The new offerings improve the performance for a variety of applications and add enterprise-class management features.

SGI also announced third-party solutions that support the TP9700 from Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Engenio Information Technologies Inc. and LSI Logic Corp. that enable SGI customers to move to a 4Gbps infrastructure at their own pace.

In September, SGI extended its HPC portfolio by unveiling an advanced hardware solution based on its Reconfigurable Application-Specific Computing technology. Built around field-programmable gate arrays that can be programmed — or reconfigured — by the user for a specific use or application, SGI's RASC technology can increase application performance by hundreds of times over conventional systems. The performance gains are vital for data-intensive applications such as oil and gas exploration, defense and intelligence, bioinformatics, medical imaging, broadcast media, and other data-dependent industries.

SGI's RASC technology is available as an add-in module that seamlessly operates with Intel Itanium 2 processor-based servers and visualization systems. During the quarter, SGI also enabled the highest quality interactive visualization of a mummy ever seen with the scanning and visualization of a 2,000-year-old mummified child.

Using a Silicon Graphics Prism system, medical experts from Stanford University were able to arrive at several conclusions about the child whose remains are housed at San Jose's Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium. Leveraging 60,000 high-resolution 2D scans, Volume Graphics GmbH and SGI created the most detailed 3D models ever produced of a mummy, and allowed scientists to “virtually unwrap” the child without disturbing her delicate form.

At a press conference at SGI headquarters, attendees learned the mummy's age, sex, likely cause of death, and experienced an interactive fly-through of the cartonnage, linen wrappings, resin-coated body and skeleton. They also learned via forensic reconstruction how she appeared in life, and were able to recreate and smell her funerary perfume.

Among the customers highlighted this quarter were:

Abratech Corp., a small San Francisco-based business doing research on human brain electrical activity, selected SGI visualization technology for its latest effort, determining special algorithms for analyzing scalp potentials in humans, which could lead to early detection of diseases. To create the most accurate head model that had been used for finite element analysis (FEA) of the electrical currents in the brain, Abratech, using monies from a grant from the National Institute of Health, purchased a Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system with 20GB RAM, and 12 Intel Itanium 2 processors running Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ver. 9.

Abratech considered clusters, but chose the Silicon Graphics Prism system for its shared-memory architecture, which allows the entire data set to exist in the RAM at one time and makes any intra-processor communications problems small or transparent to the user. SGI technology was also selected because Abratech will use VGL software from Germany's Volume Graphics GmbH and Open Source FEA engineering codes, which can be easily compiled for the open Linux environment.

AFRL Rome Research Site, as part of its effort to exploit the latest in visualization technology, purchased the largest Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system fielded to date in the Department of Defense community. The 20-processor system features 12 graphics pipes and 20 GB of memory, and will be used by AFRL's Information Systems Research Branch to run in-house simulations as well as potentially delivering High-Definition content. The system can be configured to run as a single system image of 20 CPUs or as two partitioned 10-CPU systems. The scalability and flexibility of the Prism system proved to be a key differentiator to the AFRL researchers.

BMW, the German car manufacturer, made a major investment in SGI(R) high performance computing technology to extend its strengths in complex aerodynamics design. Recently installed in Munich, an Altix 3700 Bx2 system with 160 Intel Itanium 2 processors and 160 GB shared memory now acts as the company's HPC server allowing engineers to analyze and optimize air flow related to performance, security and comfort features for all BMW car and motorcycle models.

The Altix system is processing simulations using the computational fluid dynamics code from Exa Corp. called PowerFLOW, which enables BMW to virtually study the way air flows along exterior shapes and through engine compartments with increasing details and more variants. The new PowerFLOW production platform helps BMW to further reduce the number of wind tunnel experiments and to accelerate development cycles while striving for products with highly balanced handling, stability and comfort features in wind and weather conditions. BMW selected Altix over cluster-based competition, because of SGI's superior application performance and highly available operation.

In addition to the Altix 3700 Bx2, BMW acquired an eight-processor Altix 350 system with 64 GB of memory.

Erasmus Medical Center, to greatly enhance its medical research capability through collaboration and visualization of large amounts of data, has added SGI server, storage and visualization systems to its hospital and research facility in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. A Silicon Graphics Prism system with eight Intel Itanium 2 processors, eight ATI graphics processors and 12 GB of memory will be used as an image generator to drive an interactive, immersive I-space for both clinical and research applications.

The I-space enables researchers to explore vast amounts of genomics and proteomics data in an infinite three-dimensional world. It also presents clinicians with new ways to investigate datasets from all kinds of 3D imaging modalities. The visualization technology is applied in the fields of neurosciences, cardiovascular research and cancer research. A 32-processor SGI Origin 3800 server will run an Oracle database with clinical and molecular data.

The French Air Force, to create realistic simulations to train all military air traffic controllers for operations inside and outside of France, selected three Silicon Graphics Prism visualization systems, each with four Intel Itanium 2 processors and four ATI graphics pipes.

The systems will run SGI Advanced Linux Environment with ProPack (ALE/PP3) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Sold through SGI channel partner Immersion SAS, which is also providing 22 DLP projectors with a complete blending and correction system, the entire project is driven by CS-SI, a service company.

CS-SI's internal 3D library, Vertigo, is being ported to the 64-bit Linux environment with the help of the SGI Application Group. SGI Professional Services is managing the complete project, including building two virtual air traffic control towers that will be used 12 hours a day, seven days a week. One virtual tower will be a complete 360 degrees display powered by eight graphics pipes on two Silicon Graphics Prism systems; the other will show 180 degrees and will be powered by four graphics pipes.

Key elements of the French Air Force's choice include: SGI's global shared- memory architecture, especially when compared to cluster solutions they considered that required up to 14 separate machines; the Silicon Graphics Prism system's image quality, robustness, ease of use and administration; and SGI's experience in driving and implementing large visualization projects. Installation will commence in February 2006.

Harvard University's Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, in an effort to integrate remote visualization technology into a grid test bed initiative, has selected the Silicon Graphics Prism Extreme system through SGI's educational reseller, James River Technical Inc.

The extremely high-resolution visualization system, and powerful shared-memory architecture of the SGI system with a Linux OS-based open environment will be part of “Crimson Grid,” Harvard's multi-vendor, multi-architecture, university-wide grid project. The Silicon Graphics Prism is configured with 16 Intel Itanium 2 processors, four ATI graphics pipes, SGI compositor and 256GB of shared memory. This system includes a full complement of Silicon Graphics world-leading graphics software tools, including OpenGL Vizserver, OpenGL Performer and OpenGL Volumizer, plus half a terabyte of highly scalable SGI InfiniteStorage TP900 for the Crimson Grid project.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.'s flight simulation laboratory in Fort Worth, Texas, purchased an SGI Diskless Operation Server Solution to help solve one of the most demanding system administration challenges facing government agencies and contractors: managing the explosion of classified data in lab environments that require processing data at multiple levels of security.

In a lab with dozens of simulators operating at multiple classification levels like the Lockheed Martin flight simulation laboratory, lab technicians must literally manage hundreds of disk drives in order to change from one classification level to another.

The SGI Diskless Operation Server Solution consolidates all storage for a particular classification level to individual sets of physically separated or “air gap” separated drive containers. This minimizes the number of drives to manage by as much as 90 percent (depending on the configuration), and significantly reduces the time needed to rapidly change classification levels.

The open, cross-platform nature of the SGI Diskless Operation Server Solution enables many of the most popular computing platforms to operate without system drives, including Microsoft Windows 2000/2003/XP, Linux, IRIX and Solaris. The SGI Diskless Operation Server Solution will include over 25 TB of SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700 RAID storage, SGI metadata servers and InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS, designed to enhance workflow and reduce costs by eliminating file duplication and the time it takes to move large files over the network.

China's Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, as part of an effort to develop a new, more accurate weather forecasting model, acquired a 128-processor Altix 3700 Bx2 supercomputer with 256 GB of memory and a pair of four-processor Altix 350 mid-range servers with 16 GB of memory each — all integrated via a 16 TB storage area network built on an SGI InfiniteStorage TP9500 RAID array.

Key factors in the sale were the flexibility and open source advantages of a 64-bit Linux environment, the superior performance and long-term viability of the Intel Itanium 2 processor architecture, and the ability of SGI's global shared-memory architecture to process large meteorological data sets at once. After an exhaustive benchmarking process, the university selected the SGI solution over competing products from IBM.

PICC Property and Casualty Company Ltd.'s Guangzhou Branch in China will streamline its ability to visually recreate accidents to verify claims and minimize fraud with new Silicon Graphics Prism visualization systems. With traffic accidents on the rise, particularly in the region's large urban centers, the Cantonese company invested in SGI visualization solutions to collaborate on evidence reviews, confirm the accuracy of insurance claims, and manage an ever-increasing workflow of visualization and computation tasks. PICC purchased six Silicon Graphics Prism Power and Team level systems, each with two processors, two graphics pipes, 4 GB of memory and 250 GB of disk storage. PICC also purchased a Silicon Graphics Prism Deskside visualization system with two processors, one graphics pipe, 2 GB of memory and 250 GB of disk.

Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC), one of Poland's top HPC centers delivering computational, networking and storage services to thousands of users, acquired an Altix solution to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery for biochemists, chemists, physicists and other researchers. PSNC acquired a 64-processor Altix 3700 system as a first stage of the replacement plan for a previously installed 160-processor SGI Origin system.

The Altix system was installed in August, and is equipped with 128 GB of shared memory and InfiniteStorage. PSNC runs Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ver. 9 and the SGI ProPack 4 enhanced toolkit and libraries. The new HPC system is integrated with an existing PC cluster to form a 64-bit, Intel Itanium 2 processor-based environment for advanced scientific applications.

PNSC researchers are developing several advanced projects based on SGI technology, one of which is a Checkpoint/Restart software program developed in PSNC on one of the first four-processor Altix 3000 platforms ever shipped. It is now tested both on the new Altix and PC machines and allows researchers to perform their computations in a much more reliable way.

Simon Fraser University's Scientific Computing and Imaging Research Facility selected SGI technology because of its large, global shared-memory architecture, high-resolution visualization and real-time scalable graphics processing to facilitate the real-time exploration of large (several hundred GB) three-dimensional, time-varying volumetric data produced by computational modeling or medical applications.

Because it was the only system that could handle their large data sets, SCIRF purchased the Silicon Graphics Prism Extreme system with the assistance of a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The Prism system comes with 32 Intel Itanium 2 processors, 32 GB of memory and 16 ATI graphic pipes running SGI Advanced Linux Environment with SGI ProPack (ALE/PP3). SCIRF primarily uses OpenG and Visualization Toolkit applications. Since SFU's software is Open Source, the Linux environment was key to its choice, as was the Itanium 2, which provides the best floating point performance benchmark for their applications. SFU researchers will use the system for studying a variety of problems ranging from computational fluid dynamics, hydrogen fuel cell modeling, medical imaging, and data mining. The system was ordered in June and is currently being installed.

Stanford University's School of Medicine's Department of Surgery purchased an Altix 3700 Bx2 system for its new Center for Simulation in Medicine, scheduled to open in March 2006. Using data input from actual cardiac patients' magnetic resonance imaging and computer tomography scans, the system is already being used to create patient-specific models, simulate blood flow in patients with cardiovascular disease and perform virtual operations in an attempt to predict outcomes of cardiovascular surgery. The process also assists the doctor to select the best procedure by running the patient data to simulate several possible surgical interventions and review of patients' virtual outcomes.

Installed in late September, the Altix system, with 64 GB memory, 64 Intel. Itanium. 2 processors, runs the SGI Advanced Linux Environment with ProPack and Stanford's own custom-written software which simulates blood flow in the cardiovascular system. Stanford University selected the SGI Altix system, with 2.8 TB of SGI. InfiniteStorage S330 storage because they are solving very large problems consisting of large models in parallel.

The State Key Laboratory of Physical Chemistry of Solid Surfaces at Xiamen University in China will streamline its advanced chemistry studies with four 16-processor Altix 350 servers, each equipped with 32 GB of memory. Citing the Altix 350 platform's leading price/performance and ease of administration, the University will leverage the new systems to a broad range of applications, including Materials Studio, CASTEP and DMol3 from Accelerys, as well as Gaussian03, VASP and various custom codes.

After selecting the SGI solution over competing products from IBM, Xiamen University administrators expect their four new Altix servers will deliver the computation power necessary to develop new experimental techniques and theoretical methods in the study of the physical chemistry of solid surfaces, such as solid/gas and solid/liquid interfaces, as well as related nanomaterials. Researchers hope these studies may lead to the discovery of new compositions, structures and related properties.

TRENS Trencin, a mid-sized manufacturing company in Slovakia, installed a four-processor SGI Altix 350 to serve as a platform for the company's information systems. The sale also involved an InfiniteStorage TP9300 RAID array equipped with 1TB of Fibre Channel disks interoperating with SGI's fast I/O subsystem based on 2 Gb Fibre Channel technology. The new SGI server and storage system will be the workhorse for TRENS Trenchin's Informix database engine, which stores data for several applications, including the complex information system MAX from Max International.

The new hardware addresses two issues at TRENS: the need to bring power to all interactive users and the ability to run the latest version of Informix DB and related applications. The modular architecture of both Altix and InfiniteStorage solutions offers TRENS enough redundancy to ensure high levels of availability, and allows a smooth upgrade path in all areas, including CPU, memory, storage and I/O.

The University of Northern British Columbia's Enhanced High Performance Computing Center (EHPCC) purchased an SGI Altix 3700 Bx2 with 64 Intel Itanium 2 processors and 64 GB of memory, running Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ver. 9 and SGI ProPack 4 to develop a number of compute- intensive projects.

UNBC also selected the SGI Altix 350 system with four Intel Itanium 2 processors and 8 GB of memory as a file server, as well as an SGI InfiniteStorage TP9300, with 8.4 TB storage. Ordered in June and currently being installed, the system will run Gaussian, Fluent, C/C++ and Fortran codes.

The HPC center at UNBC was originally created in 2000 with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund. Research in chemistry, mathematics, natural resource management, computer science, and atmospheric sciences is currently being conducted in the HPC facility.

The new equipment will support ongoing research as well as new research on mapping healthcare utilization, air quality, the role of forests in regional/global climate change, and the particular properties of wood for the development of value-added products. A longtime user of large-memory SGI equipment, UNBC chose Altix technology for its large shared-memory capability and because Itanium 2 CPUs met the price/performance criteria for their codes. The EHPCC facility also has standardized on Linux for portability reasons.

Wroclaw Center for Networking and Supercomputing, part of Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland, installed in August a 64-processor Altix 3700 system equipped with 128 GB of shared memory and running Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ver. 9 and the SGI ProPack 4 enhanced toolkit and libraries.

The Altix system's fast I/O subsystem, based on the latest 4 Gb Fibre Channel technology, integrates with WCSS's new storage infrastructure incorporating an advanced SGI TP9700 array equipped with 4 TB of Fibre Channel disks and the SGI InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS.

With CXFS, WCSS researchers can easily access and share even large files between a broad array of SGI servers and visual workstations. CXFS also enables fast collaboration between applications and smooth user transition from legacy UNIX(R) servers. The SGI server and storage solutions will help academic users solve large problems in research areas ranging from quantum chemistry, finite element modeling and applied mathematics. The Altix system will be dedicated to run shared-memory codes and codes which require more memory than is available on the facility's existing cluster.

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