CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

NEC refreshes old-school supercomputer

Much of the contemporary supercomputer world is focused on machines made up of a network of smaller computers, but NEC is going retro with its new model, the SX-7.

Much of the contemporary supercomputer world is focused on machines made up of a network of smaller computers, but NEC is going retro with its new model, the SX-7.

Supercomputers have never been cheap, but prices have been dropping because of a newer approach that stacks up many independent systems, which are often running the open-source Linux operating system. This "cluster" approach works well with problems that can be broken down into independent calculations and run simultaneously, but many customers still prefer a single system, which isn't constrained by the time needed to send information from one node to another.

With its SX line, NEC is continuing to develop this single-system approach. The new SX-7 accommodates 32 processors and 256GB of memory, compared with 8 processors and 64GB of memory for the SX-6 predecessor. The system will go on sale in Japan this December.

A low-end version with four processors and 32GB of memory costs about $2.2 million; a top-end version likely will cost more than $100 million. The company expects to sell more than 20 per year, NEC spokeswoman Kazuko Andersen said.

Supercomputer specialist and former NEC foe Cray sells earlier SX series computers in the United States and has the right to include the SX-7 as well, Andersen said. The two companies had been locked in a legal dispute for years about selling NEC systems in the United States but resolved it in 2001.

Machines in the SX line are "vector" supercomputers, which can perform a more complicated type of arithmetic than ordinary computers. The systems are popular with automotive and aerospace companies. SX customers include Toyota, Nissan, DaimlerChrysler and Volvo, and Airbus, which is using SX systems to design its double-decker A380 jet.

Companies favoring the clustered approach include IBM and Dell Computer.

So far, 140 of the SX-6 systems have been sold, NEC said.