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HPCwire constrasts Cray's announcement with "the other" personal supercomputer

Interesting post from Michael Feldman at HPCwire, who’s blog has really become a great source for candid, informed insight about what’s going on in HPC.

When I wrote about the new Cray CX1 and the brief and unfortunate history of personal supercomputing platforms in yesterday’s blog, I intentionally didn’t mention the SC072 deskside machine from SiCortex.

…A fully loaded SC072 will run about $25K, which just happens to be same as the entry point price for a CX1. But according to Kem Stewart, VP of Hardware Engineering at SiCortex, the SC072 is much more suitable as an office machine than the Cray CX1. Compared to the SC072, a fully populated CX1 using all 8 slots would consume up to 10 times more power.

…But because of the lower raw performance of the SC072, that’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. Stewart thinks a CX1 with just two compute blades, representing about 200 peak gigaflops, would deliver roughly the same application performance as a 100 gigaflop SC072, while requiring a lot more power. The tight integration on the SiCortex SoC and the internal Kautz graph topology interconnect fabric means that both memory bandwidth and node-to-node communication are generally superior to a system like the CX1, which is constructed from commodity parts.

Good stuff, and this is the crux of the comments I’m reading on blogs around the interwebs. Recommend the whole thing as a read because it’s hard to excerpt meaningfully (I wanted to just paste the whole thing in over here).

One of the things I think is interesting is that, while SiCortex has machines that can compete against the CX1 (and for certain customers will win against the CX1), SiCortex isn’t Cray. The CX1 feels like an iPod to me: it has been designed with the panache of a consumer product, by a company that has the same kind of brand in HPC that Apple has in consumer electronics.

The trouble for Cray is that I don’t yet know whether this matters in HPC, where ugly, hot, heavy, and hard to use don’t matter as long as its cheap and gets good Linpack. I hope it does, but then I use all Apple products.

That said, SiCortex isn’t planning to go against Cray head-to-head in the personal space, yet:

At this point, SiCortex has no plans to go after the low end of the HPC market directly. Goodhue says that they’ll continue to focus their efforts on the mid-market HPC segment, but admits they have considered repositioning the SC072 as a standalone production machine. “It’s interesting, but it’s not where we’re going right now,” he says.

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