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back to article SGI backs away from public clouds, chases HPC and big data

Supercomputer and high-density server maker Silicon Graphics is still not back on track to profitability, but CEO Jorge Titinger says he knows what to do: Back away from the knife fight of providing infrastructure to public cloud providers and focus on commercial HPC systems, related big data systems, and the storage that sits …

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Why

Don't SGI manufacture a big bad SMP server with 16-32 cpus instead of clusters with 1000s of cores or cpus? Enterprises are interested in big bad SMP servers, not clusters. For instance, the IBM P795 weighs ca 2.000kg and it has up to 32 cpus.

Until SGI sells a big bad SMP server with as many as 32 cpus, I won't be impressed. Anyone can make a huge cluster with 1000s of cores and tons of RAM. Until anyone offers a Linux server with 32 cpus for sale, I wont be impressed. The problem is that Linux can not scale beyond 8 cpus today. No one has ever offered a 16 or 32 cpu Linux server for sale. SGI could be the first to make Linux scale beyond 8 sockets? And then SGI could target the Enterprise market, instead of chasing HPC scientific number crunching specialized companies, running large Linux clusters.

Just look at the ScaleMP solution, which is very similar to SGIs cluster called Altix, UV, etc. ScaleMP also has 1000s of cores and runs a single image Linux kernel, in their large servers. But, ScaleMP uses a software hypervisor which tricks the Linux kernel into believing it is running on a single SMP server, when in fact, the kernel runs on a cluster. But using a software hypervisor is not the same thing as a running on a true SMP server. The largest SMP servers have 32 or sometimes, even 64 cpus. The largest HPC clusters have 1000s of cores and tons of RAM.

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Re: Why

SGI offers the UV series. They claim "This latest SGI UV product family can scale a single system image (SSI) to a maximum of 2,048 cores", and runs SUSE or Red Hat Linux.

http://www.sgi.com/products/servers/uv/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why

No use arguing with Kebabbert about this - he knows that he's right. The fact that there are a variety of architectures available doesn't matter to him. The fact that SGI state that their 512 ( or whatever it it now) core systems will run SUSE or Redhat unmodified as a single system image doesn't apparently count either.

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Gold badge

Re: Why

" Why don't SGI manufacture a big bad SMP server with 16-32 cpus instead of clusters with 1000s of cores or cpus? "

Because the technology SGI has was simply overkill; as they say in the article, they were marketing to "cloud computing" providers (which of course means once the marketing guys got out of the way they were marketing to data centers in general...) But having a multi-giga*byte*/second interconnect and so on is simply overkill when compared to (less costly) rack of systems with ethernet backing them, and SGI was unable to get costs low enough to be even vaguely competitive. Realize, virtual machines, web server software, database software, most data analysis stuff, etc., each individual process easily will fit in the amount of RAM that can fit on one blade, so the high-speed interconnect will not even come into play.

"Until SGI sells a big bad SMP server with as many as 32 cpus, I won't be impressed. Anyone can make a huge cluster with 1000s of cores and tons of RAM. "

This has been cutting *some* into SGIs sales -- throwing a pile of systems into a rack and sticking gigabit, or 10gigabit, ethernet, or Myrinet, or Infiniband, behind them, allows for a system that can run certain distributed jobs just fine and some other types "well enough". This is not what SGI has though -- they have a VERY fast, VERY low latency interconnect that permits the whole lot to act as a single system with 100s or 1000s of CPUs in it with minimal loss of performance.

"Until anyone offers a Linux server with 32 cpus for sale, I wont be impressed. "

Be impressed, 32-CPU systems shipped years ago, I've seen a few personally. IBM sells a system with 8 6-core CPUs which came out in 2010, Sun had a 4 x 8-core system already by 2010. You could buy 12-core CPUs from AMD by 2010, and run 48 cores using a 4-socket motherboard.

"The problem is that Linux can not scale beyond 8 cpus today."

It sure can.

" No one has ever offered a 16 or 32 cpu Linux server for sale."

Don't know about CPUs, but cores? They sure have.

" SGI could be the first to make Linux scale beyond 8 sockets? And then SGI could target the Enterprise market, instead of chasing HPC scientific number crunching specialized companies, running large Linux clusters."

Ignoring the first part (SGI is far from the first to scale beyond 8 sockets...), SGI tried targetting the enterprise market. As the article says, it has low margins compared to HPC. SGI's technology was overkill for this market, and so they could not get the cost low enough to be competitive.

The thing you are missing (other than insisting high-core systems don't exist, and that Linux can't use them....) is the great speed of this interconnect. ScaleMP lets you lash together a bunch of nodes and have them appear as a Single System Image; SGI's specialized chips are letting them lash together a bunch of nodes and have them appear as a Single System Image. BUT, ScaleMP is limited by the (gigabit or 10 gigabit) ethernet, or Myrinet, or Infiniband, or whatever backing it up, which at it's best has an order of magnitude higher latency than NUMALink.

NUMALink is quite close to being fast enough to actually supply the CPUs at full speed, so you can have a job spread all over and it'll still run at close to 90% efficiency. THIS is what is keeping SGI in business, there are certain computation types that break up just fine (nearly to fully independent threads, working on nearly to fully independent bits of data, will work fine on a cluster), and there are certain types that do not break up well at all (fluid dynamics and weather models to name 2.) With these types of computations, the work threads tend to each have to do somewhat of a "random walk" through the data set, and sometimes threads are pretty interdependent, both of which makes this type of job completely unsuitable for "traditional" (message passing) clusters, and very very slow on a "traditional" cluster running single system image software on it, due to the slowness (slow relative to on-board memory...) of the message-passing hardware.

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Re: Why

"...Be impressed, 32-CPU systems shipped years ago, I've seen a few personally. IBM sells a system with 8 6-core CPUs which came out in 2010, Sun had a 4 x 8-core system already by 2010. You could buy 12-core CPUs from AMD by 2010, and run 48 cores using a 4-socket motherboard...."

I am talking about 32 sockets. 32 cpus. Not 32 cores. I have never seen a Linux server with 32 sockets. Have you? If you have, please show us some links.

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Re: Why

"....No use arguing with Kebabbert about this - he knows that he's right. The fact that there are a variety of architectures available doesn't matter to him. The fact that SGI state that their 512 ( or whatever it it now) core systems will run SUSE or Redhat unmodified as a single system image doesn't apparently count either...."

As I said, ScaleMP has their 2048-8192 core server running unmodified Linux kernel in one single system image. But, ScaleMP is running a software hypervisor that tricks the Linux kernel into believing it is a single system image. The ScaleMP server is just a cluster. Just as the SGI server I have mentioned.

If you state that "there are a variety of architectures available", can you show us some links then? I have never seen a 32 cpu Linux server for sale. But obviously you claim they exist, several different architectures, you say. Then show us some links to those 32 cpu Linux servers, then. I am not talking about 1000s of cpus in a cluster like the SGI, I am talking about SMP servers. Who has ever seen a Linux 32 socket server for sale? I have never seen anyone. Whenever I talk about this, Linux fans always say 32 socket Linux servers exist for sale - but no one has ever showed me a link. Not. A. Single. Link. Never. Ever.

Show us the money, where are those 32 socket Linux servers? This is too weird, Linux supporters say all the time Linux 32 socket servers exist, but no one has ever showed me a link. No one. Never. Isnt that a bit weird? Every time I have requested links, but to no avail. No links. And STILL they claim such huge 32 cpu Linux servers exist for sale. I dont get it. If those servers does not exist - why in earth do they insist they exist? On top of that, they try to ridicule me, try to make me look like a ignorant computer nerd. "Dont try to argue with Kebabbert on this one, because such Linux servers exist, but I will not show you any links, and no one has ever seen such links - but it is obvious that Kebabbert is mad when he claims there are no such Linux servers, because they exist. Somewhere. I heard. But dont ask me for links. But trust me, they exist. I think. In an alternate Universe. Or on Mars."

Why are those Linux supporters like that? Do they believe in Santa Claus too? "Yes he exist, but I cant prove that but trust me. If you doubt it, you are a mad man".

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