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6/27/2007
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Intel Offers Tools, Cables For Building High-Performance Computers

The company revealed its Cluster Ready program and Connects Cables products at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

Intel on Wednesday introduced technologies for building high-performance computers, including optical cables that are lighter and thinner than traditional copper cables, and a new program that offers standardization for hardware and software used in clustered systems.

Intel unveiled its Cluster Ready program and Connects Cables at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany. The new offerings are part of Intel's effort to help software and hardware vendors expand the use of large server clusters used for high-performance computing into the data centers of financial, oil and gas and other commercial organizations.

The Cluster Ready program includes specifications that set minimum standards for hardware and software components. A compliance side of the program includes registration of software tested for compatibility with hardware and other applications, as well as hardware certification.

Intel is also offering tools, called a Cluster Checker, for determining whether hardware and software are interoperable. The tools have the ability for "fault isolation," which improves early detection of problems.

Cluster systems are the most common architecture in supercomputing. Of the 500 top supercomputers in the world, 373, or 74.6% of the total, comprise huge clusters of servers. The Top500 list of the world's fastest computers was released Wednesday at the International Supercomputing Conference.

The Connects Cables are 84% lighter and 83% smaller than copper cables, and have a 40% smaller bend radius, according to Intel. The advantages of smaller cables means there's less bulk to block airflow necessary to cool high-performance clusters, which generate a lot of heat.

In terms of weight, a 10-meter Connects Cable weighs 180 grams, compared with one kilogram for the same size copper cable. "This is significant," Tom Willis, general manager of Intel optical links, told InformationWeek. "If you have a ton of (copper) cable, then it's a problem."

In addition, the optical cables deliver data rates of 20Gbytes per second at distances up to 100 meters, Intel said. Copper can deliver that rate only at distances of 10 meters or less.

Pricing for Intel cables is similar to copper pricing, which is about $200 for a 10-meter length. The optical cable, which can use the same connections as copper cables, is scheduled for release this year.

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