A Major Leap Forward in the Blink of an Eye

April 9th, 2012 10:59 am
Posted by Kathleen Ellertson


Performance gains of up to 80% are apt to raise a few eyebrows in the HPC community, so it’s no surprise that folks took notice when Intel launched the new Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 (code-named Sandy Bridge). What you might find surprising is how long it took vendors to begin delivering products that took advantage of the new processor. The Intel Xeon processor E5 family launched on March 6. Complete clusters and optimized applications were available for purchase on… March 6!

That’s something new in the HPC world. It took a lot of behind the scenes effort for Intel and independent hardware and software vendors to synchronize their development cycles and launch dates. Dozens of systems and applications were available on day one. Customers had other options, too. They could upload their application to a test bed cluster from a leading cluster vendor. Or they could spin up a Intel Xeon processor E5 family cluster in a public cloud in a matter of minutes.

The upshot of all this is that new clusters based on the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 are now available from a number of leading hardware vendors, along with cluster management software and a variety of optimized applications. Many of these products are Intel® Cluster Ready certified (or registered, in the case of applications). That means you can mix and match them with confidence. Any registered application will run reliably on any certified cluster right out of the box, which makes implementation a lot simpler and less risky. Pick an application. Pick an appropriately sized cluster. Load one on the other and you’re off and running—at significantly faster speeds than you would have experienced just a few weeks ago.

If you’re not familiar with the new Intel Xeon processor E5 family, you’ll find that it delivers more resources across all key parameters in comparison with the previous-generation Intel Xeon processor 5600 series. Whether your workloads are CPU-, memory-, or I/O-bound, you should see significant performance benefits. Highlights of the new architecture include:

  • 2X more I/O bandwidth, with a 32% reduction in latency
  • 2X more socket-to-socket bandwidth
  • 2 more cores and 2.5 MB more cache per core
  • Up to 2X faster floating point performance
  • More and faster memory (up to 768GB/1600Mhz in a dual-socket system)

If you’re an HPC user looking for cluster solutions based on this new processor, any of the following Intel Cluster Ready members would be a good place to start: AMAX, Atipa, ClusterVision, Colfax, E4, Eurotech, Fujitsu, Silicon Mechanics, Viglen, and transtec. Each of these vendors had Intel Cluster Ready certified systems or registered software available at launch. The solutions they offer range from small clusters that could fit on your desk to multi-rack supercomputers that push the limits of HPC capability. (You can find additional lists of certified clusters and registered applications on the Intel Cluster Ready website.

If you’re looking to build your own cluster solutions, you might want to check out the following resources:

Regardless of whether you’re a user or a vendor, I hope you’ll look into the new resources that are now available. Cluster computing is getting faster, simpler, and a lot more cost-effective, which is opening up new opportunities for everyone. The Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 family is just another step forward on the journey. Well, maybe a leap.

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Author Info
Kathleen Ellertson


Kathleen Ellertson is the Global Marketing Manager for Intel Cluster Ready. She has been with Intel Corporation for more than five years. Before joining Intel she held positions in Alliance and Program Management at Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq Computers, and Hewlett Packard.