Friday, June 20, 2008
"My" SiCortex SC5832
Well, I actually just run it, my employer, Purdue actually owns it for now. But, in 5 years or so, maybe I'll get a chance to buy it for my own enjoyment, just like other things I've managed to collect.
It is a fun little MIPS processor cluster in a box, the one we have is populated with 540 nodes, each with 6, 64-bit MIPS cores and 8GB of ram. The cores are kinda poky (500MHz), but each node CPU chip (with 6 cores, a PCI-E controller, two DDR2 memory controllers, and the high-speed interconnect fabric switch) draws a whole 600mW. The system draws less than 11kW as we have it configured now, and looks quite pretty. That's approximately the same amount of power that a single rack of 24 of our new "steele" cluster nodes uses (which are Dell 1950s with dual, quad-core Xeon E5410 CPUs and 16 or 32GB ram each).
We got the system as a "green" computing initiative that we've been working on, as our new President seems quite interested in doing green things. It is also one of the few things we have that's not a commodity x86 cluster for HPC. We got this just after replacing three of our old compute clusters (dual processor, single core things) with a new, dual-socket quad-core cluster, also in the name of green computing. Hopefully this will stave off our need for a new datacenter, at least another year or two.
There is some home that the system will help revive an old project, started by the late David Moffett, called the "High Performance Classroom"; allowing students to learn about parallel computing though the use of dedicated compute time on the system. The idea was suggested by Matt Reilly of SiCortex when he came to visit Purdue and talk about the system we have. This is one of the few machines that my work owns that weren't purchased with funds from users or specific grants, and which we actually have some leeway at specifying at how the system gets used.
Our other discretionary resource is a cluster of 3-year old desktop computers, that gets updated ever year; old machines from student computer labs get rotated out of use after 3 years, and into a cluster of machines that's about 500 machines in size. It's the only dedicated resource that we current have running that anyone on campus could get an account to run their own jobs on. Some of these machines are pictured in the background of the picture of the SiCortex above.
In any case, hopefully our higher-up management decides that the SiCortex is a good enough machine to keep around (we got in on a sort-of rent-to-own plan), and use to help further one of the fundamental goals of Purdue - not the Research that keeps bringing in money, and fancy awards and prizes, but Teaching Students, which sometimes seems like it gets forgotten behind the other, gold-plated awards from the NSF and other organizations for research.