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3Leaf launches hardware to create virtual SMPs

Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Register is reporting today about the launch of new technology from 3Leaf that glues together multiple Opteron chips into a virtual SMP. 3Leaf does with a hardware assist what reverse-virtualization provider ScaleMP does solely in software.

The company was started by Bob Quinn, who is currently chairman and chief technology officer at 3Leaf, back in 2003, who saw that as switches kept getting faster and faster (as they have), there would be a crossover point where they could be used as the backplane of SMP systems, which tightly cluster servers together and allow them to share main and cache memory and therefore present a single memory space for applications and a single operating system to play in.

With the right kind of traffic cop and virtualization support in the x64 chip and in standard operating systems, it would be possible to create a scale-up server (or, as it turns out, many of them) from a scale-out rack of the workhorse two-socket boxes that populate most of the data centers of the world.

The traffic cop in this case 3Leaf’s Voyager ASIC, which virtualizes memory and cores in a socket out to the network switch over HyperTransport, taking advantage of nested page table memory management put into chips to provide support for virtualization. Although the company has licensed both Intel’s QPI and AMD’s Hypertransport, today you can only get systems built out of the AMD gear.

The DCC-ASIC is currently limited to Opteron processors in the quad-core “Shanghai” and six-core “Istanbul” families, and the chip will also support the 12-core “Magny-Cours” processors coming out from AMD in the first quarter of 2010. This first DDC-ASIC spans up to 16 two-socket Opteron server nodes, and can create an image with 192 cores and 1 TB of main memory (using 4 GB DDR2 memory modules). This, says Quinn, covers 99 per cent of the workloads out there on big iron today.

There are two configurations of machines that will start shipping in December: a 96-core Istanbul version with 256 GB at 99,000 USD, and a 192-core version with 1 TB of memory for 250,000 USD.

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