SiCortex's low power, low latency super still on for a summer ship

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Ashlee Vance over at The Register checked in with new HPC vendor SiCortex for a status check on its upcoming hardware release. The news right now is no news: SiCortex is still on schedule for a summer ship, with hardware in user beta test right now.

This is a MIPS-based machine (six core chips), aimed at consuming less power than modern clusters and interconnecting processors at lower latency. A full up 972 node SC5832 clocks in at 5832 GFlops and consumes 18 kilowatts. From the story

By going with low power chips, SiCortex could keep overall energy consumption low while also pushing components closer together, improving internal communications (1 microsecond of MPI latency for SiCortex versus 10 microseconds of MPI latency for standard clusters). And like its x86 counterparts, the SiCortex 5832 runs Linux (modified Gentoo) and the Lustre file system.

Also important? The system has great industrial design.


  1. This doesn’t seem so impressive. 5832 Gflops for 18 kilowatts?

    Machines built on the latest Intel chips can do 100 Gflops for about 400 watts, 60 machines would be 24 kilowatts.

  2. cstork… lets analyze things just abit. Indeed, I agree with you that an current Intel [call it Clovertown] with the addition of its FBDIMMs will run at 400w. However, when one adds all the board/card/disk peripherals and peg the cpu(s) on the machine, you can easily measure the power utilization at between 600 and 650w. I’ve done it…

    So, lets extrapolate this a bit.
    Given the following : Intel Clovertown, dual socket, quad core 2.0Ghz, 4 ops/clock.
    2.0Ghz * 4 * 8cores = 64Gflops peak. Not bad. Lets consider the peak power utilization to be 600w [machine is pegged].
    So, we have 64Gflops at 600w.

    In order to match the SiCortex machine, we would need exactly 91 nodes. So, 91 nodes @ 600w = 54.6kw. Ouch!
    This is roughly 33% higher than the SiCortex.

    This general comparison is, of course, ignoring one’s target workload, which is often the #1 driver in procurement activities.

  3. John Leidel laid out the calculation better than I could, though I think he meant to say that the Intel configuration consumes 3 times the power of the equivalent SiCortex configuration. (54.6kw/18kw = ~3).

  4. John Leidel says

    Indeed… apologies for the erroneous numbers.