Intel Makes its Moves Into HPC Motherboards

By Michael Feldman

November 10, 2011

It looks like Intel’s Enterprise Platform and Services Division (EPSD) is about to get in the HPC business. According to a report in CRN, the chip maker will announce the news at the Supercomputing Conference (SC11) next week in Seattle.

In general EPSD has focused on products for the more mainstream enterprise space, shying away from niche markets like HPC. But David Brown, director of marketing for EPSD, is quoted in the CRN piece as saying that the rebound in the HPC market and growth forecasts in the 10 percent-per-year range has led to change of heart for the EPSD folks at Intel.

The products to be introduced include half-width dual-socket motherboards based on the Romley architecture. The boards will incorporate HPC interconnects, lots of memory, and of course, Intel Xeon CPUs, in this case the new Sandy Bridge Xeon processors. To go along with the new motherboards, Intel is planning to offer 1U and 2U boxes. The 2U enclosure can supposedly house up to 8 CPUs.

The new Sandy Bridge Xeons won’t be in general production until 2012, but apparently some deliveries of the CPUs with their new Intel-built HPC products have already been deployed in the wild. Specifically, HPC cluster maker Appro recently installed a number of HPC systems with the Intel motherboards to a number of DOE labs, including Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Intel’s principal competition in this arena will be vendors like Supermicro, Tyan and ASUS, who have making generic x86 motherboards and chasses for HPC system vendors and channel partners for some time. But now that the market is big enough, the chipmaker figures it may as well cut out the middleman, and build those value-added parts itself.

Intel will reveal all the particulars about the new products next Tuesday at SC11.

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