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Dell throws weight behind clusters

Dell Computer is adding more hardware to its high-performance clusters, aiming to up the number of computers that share heavyweight computing jobs.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Dell Computer is adding more hardware to its high-performance clusters, aiming to up the number of computers that share heavyweight computing jobs.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC manufacturer on Wednesday said it will begin offering its PowerEdge 1655MC blade server through its cluster program. A cluster is a group of computers linked to tackle large jobs for researchers or companies in industries like oil. The company will also add a faster data interconnect to its PowerEdge 2650 servers offered under the program.

The new hardware offerings aim to boost the company's presence in the cluster industry--which Dell thinks will play a major role in its future success.

Clusters based on Linux have risen in popularity because they deliver a mix of good performance and relatively low cost compared with custom-built supercomputers. Most of the clusters Dell has sold to date, including one located at the State University of New York at Buffalo, use RedHat's Linux operating system. Dell is also working on Windows-based clusters with Cornell University and Microsoft.

By offering its blade servers as part of its cluster program, Dell will allow customers to increase the number of computers, or nodes, they can fit into a given area, the company said.

"Customers can deploy hundreds to thousands of Dell server blades in a Linux supercomputing cluster in considerably less space and for less cost for a growing number of applications," said Pete Morowski, vice president of software development in Dell's product group.

As many as 84 Dell PowerEdge 1655MC blades fit into a single rack or a 6-foot-tall enclosure. Dell can fit 42 PowerEdge 2650 models or 21 PowerEdge 1650 models in a rack. By fitting more servers to a rack using the blades, Dell can add more processing power to a given cluster compared with similar nonbladed servers.

A six-node cluster using the PowerEdge 1655MC servers and RedHat Linux will start at $42,000, Dell said.

Many customers, especially those concerned about costs and floor space, are likely to take advantage of the ability to use larger numbers of the blade servers to build their clusters. But Dell admits its blade servers, which use Intel Pentium III processors, won't work for every customer. Some will opt for performance over the greater density provided by blade servers, a company representative said.

For those customers, Dell will offer more performance by adding Myricom's Myrinet interconnect to its PowerEdge 2650 servers, the company said. Myrinet, which offers up to two Intel Xeon chips, allows the machines to use a higher speed. The interconnect is used widely by companies that manufacture supercomputers, Dell representatives said.

Meanwhile, Dell also announced Wednesday that it has launched a new partner network to help address the special needs of customers in industries such as life sciences, energy and manufacturing.

The network will allow Dell to offer the services of outside consultants and hardware and software vendors, including Myricom and RedHat.