Florida State University, like most state schools in the US with a storied (American) football program, also has a respectable comp sci department that is not afraid to spend a little cash on a new technology when it comes along. And that's how the Seminoles have ended up being one of the first customers of upstart server maker …
shared memory is the important part
The important part of this system is the shared memory, allowing for SSI (single system image) operation. Certain computations parallelize fine, but each portion requires access to the full working set, and possibly large amounts of data passed between working threads. This is VERY slow with message passing, but trivial with shared memory.
there's been a dearth of systems recently that have shared memory past 1 motherboard,
Tbyte of RAM
"...a terabyte per node is going to be normal with the server chips that Intel and AMD are cooking up for this year."
Very interesting - a reference here would be great. I know Nehalem EX is coming, but not sure they can take that much RAM.