High-performance computing (HPC) users are looking for platforms that deliver performance at a reasonable cost and within the confines of space and cooling available to them. A consistent software platform helps too. Silicon Graphics targets these users with its InfiniBand-based SGI Altix ICE (integrated compute environment).
The SGI Alitx ICE packs up to four individual rack units (IRUs) in a standard rack to deliver up to 6 TFLOPS of performance via 512 cores using Intel's quad-core Xeon 5000 processors (see the figure). This blade-based system weighs only 2050 lb/rack (246 lb/ft2). It's available with liquid cooling, so designers can use it in environments other than environmentally controlled computer rooms. Fans within the system blow across the boars and through chilled water-cooled doors. The system can handle 15 kW.
The IRUs house up to 16 compute only blades. Each blade contains a pair of processors and up to 32 Gbytes of memory with a pair of 4x double-data-rate (DDR) InfiniBand links. The blades plug into an InfiniBand backplane hosted by a 24-port InfiniBand switch. Eight external ports can be used to link IRUs together or to other InfiniBand-based racks, systems, or storage facilities.
Moving storage off the blade has benefits in cooling as well as in configuration and reliability. Hard drives tend to be an Achilles heel in other systems. InfiniBand lets designers move them out of the computing platform. Additionally, it moves system storage configuration into the software realm. The SGI Alitx ICE is typically paired with an InifiniBand-based RAID system, improving cooling requirements by 20% while providing higher throughput and flexibility.