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SGI Claims its New Altix System Brings High-End Linux Computing to Those with Low-End Budgets

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SGI last week unveiled the latest — and lowest-priced — member of its growing Altix line of servers and clusters built on 64-bit Linux and Itanium 2 processors. The Altix 330 server contains the same shared-memory architecture as higher-end Altix systems that can cost in the millions of dollars, but is priced starting at $7,000 for a 1U chassis.

The release follows on SGI's launch last year of the "departmental" scale Altix 350, which starts at $13,000 for a 2U chassis. "The 330 is yet another way to bring the price down but keep the features just about the same," said Dan Stevens, SGI's life and chemical sciences market manager.

The Altix 330 scales up to 16 processors running a single instance of the operating system. "What we're finding now is that new customers are interested in having the capability [of the higher-end Altix], but they don't need all the bells and whistles of going up to 1,000 processors," Stevens said.

In addition to "price sensitivity," there are some performance benefits associated with smaller-scale systems, he said. "Many of the ab initio computational chemistry codes don't scale beyond 32 processors," he said.

In bioinformatics, "customers want to put larger data sets in a single memory image, but they're used to working in very inexpensive Linux cluster environments." The new system is expected to help these customers "keep costs down to what they're accustomed to," he said.

Stevens said that life science applications that SGI has already tuned for Altix — including Blast, Fasta, Hmmer, and ClustalW — will run on the Altix 330.

The company also launched a mid-range storage system last week for the Altix 330 called the InfiniteStorage S330, which enables users to store and manage up to 16 terabytes of data in DAS, NAS, or SAN configurations. Pricing for the S330 starts at $12,599.

Stevens said that SGI is also launching an "aggressive" reseller channel expansion program in order to "bring our supercomputer capabilities to a larger class of customers." He was unable to disclose details on any specific channel partners in the life science market, however, citing the fact that some contracts had yet to be signed.

Limited shipments for the Altix 330 have begun already, Stevens said, and "volume shipments" are expected to begin in August or September.

— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])

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