Plump Dell lays its table for the upcoming HPC Stampede

Texas gamble accompanies business trio

Michael Dell is getting out the good china as his firm prepares to dine on a slice of the world's supercomputer market.

Dell’s PC and server shop has rolled out a series of High Performance Computer Systems targeting applications in life sciences, manufacturing and research.

They are: the HPC System for Life Sciences, designed for bio informatics and genomics; the HPC System for Manufacturing, which targets complex design and structural analysis; and the HPC System for Research, for complex scientific analysis.

Doors are also open on an early access programme for Dell’s PowerEdge C6320p server node, a 1U server node with up to 72 cores running on Intel’s Xeon Phi.

The PowerEdge, for HPC and analytics, will ship in the second-half of 2016.

Dell has also announced that, together with Intel, it has beefed up the Stampede supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), University of Texas, Austin, a system that ranked number 12 in the Top500 supercomputer list published this week.

Stampede was installed in 2012 and was upgraded in partnership with Dell and Intel to 462,800 core Intel Xeon Phi system. It’s capable of a theoretical 8.5 petaflops.

Stampede is a part of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) network of supers used for massive workloads. The system is employed for projects ranging from cancer cure research to severe weather modeling.

However, plans are now underway for a Dell Stampede 2 capable of hitting up to 18 petaflops thanks to a $30m grant from the National Science Foundation.

Dell’s strategy is to exploit what it sees as a big market for supercomputer clusters outside the super leagues – in more “mainstream” manufacturing, for example – currently using single workstations as opposed to parallel clusters.

In the back of everyone's minds, however, will be that Top500 ranking. The US is eager to increase its presence in the list of the top 500 of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

China cemented its hold with the Sunway TaihuLight, which displaced incumbent the Tianhe-2 on Intel Xeon-Xeon Phi.

Sunway, with more than 10 million cores, is capable of a theoretical peak performance of 125.4 petaflops.

Importantly, Sunway is a Chinese super that runs on ShenWei processors, and not those of Intel, although there has been a debate over the ShenWei processors’ provenance. At a theoretical 18 petaflops, Stampede 2 will remain outside the list of highest performers but it may, at least, help maintain Dell's presence. ®

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