Silicon Graphics (SGI) claims it has produced the world's most powerful commercial computer, but has come under attack from Sun at the lower end of its supercomputer range.
The T3E-1200 supercomputer from SGI's Cray division is the successor to the T3E-900, the first commercially available machine to break the 1Tflops performance barrier. The new model performs at up to 2.5Tflops, a measurement used for very compute-intensive operations.
The new machine scales up to 2,048 processors and prices will start under #1 million, although this will only buy a 20-processor model. However, SGI claims it is making very high performance computing affordable for sites with supercomputing needs, but which previously had to make do with large networked workstations. "Large scale computational analysis in fields such as oil and gas, climatology and pharmaceutical research will take days instead of months," said UK business manager Ameet Dave.
But SGI has more competition on its hands in its own-brand server range, which is targeted at rather less intensive applications than the Cray line. Sun has released benchtest results that claim its Starfire Ultra Enterprise E10000 server outperforms the SGI Origin 2000.
Using the Linpack benchmark, Sun claims performance of 100.4Gflops for a 256-processor, four-node parallel cluster. Chris Sarfas, marketing and business development manager for enterprise servers, claims only specialised vector technology machines - such as the Crays - can scale more efficiently over parallel architectures.
In the benchtests, the 250MHz Starfire outperformed both a 64-CPU, 195MHz Origin 2000 and the 440MHz Digital Alphaserver 8400 cluster.
"Sun's results mark a significant entry for the company as a viable player in the high performance computing market," commented Jack Dongarra, who created Linpack.
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