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Dell Adds French Accent To Supercomputing Clusters

Oil company cited for building supercomputer out of 3,000 Dell servers.
Dell continued its move into the clustered, high-performance computing market Wednesday by designating France's Compagnie Generale de Geophysique SA as a Dell Center for Research Excellence. Compagnie Generale, a global oil-services company, received this distinction for its work in seismic analysis and technical computing, not to mention its status as having the largest Dell cluster in the United States.

The French company, which rung up $736 million in sales last year, is using more than 3,000 Dell PowerEdge servers linked together to act as a supercomputing cluster to analyze seismic data that can help identify and model oil and gas reservoirs worldwide. The company uses different server clusters globally to process seismic data that helps identify new oil and gas reservoirs, as well as to model existing reservoirs in order to optimize production.

Compagnie Generale is the first company to receive Dell's distinction as a Center for Research Excellence. The company, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, in 2001 deployed a 128-node Dell PowerEdge cluster, which has since grown to 3,000 nodes and a capacity of 30 teraflops, or 30 trillion floating point operations per second. Compagnie Generale also has a 512-node Dell cluster in Foxboro, England, and a smaller Dell cluster in Canada. Compagnie Generale's computing strategy differs from that of competitor Petroleum Geo-Services ASA, a Norwegian company that specializes in analyzing potential drilling locations for oil companies. Petroleum Geo-Services in January signed up with IBM to use the technology provider's outsourced on-demand supercomputing services to process data and images during a three-month project of deepwater seismic exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dell continues to target the high-performance computing market, which had previously been dominated by high-end symmetric multiprocessor servers. A year ago, the University at Buffalo unveiled a massive cluster of 2,008 Intel-based Dell servers running Red Hat Linux. The school is using the cluster to advance the study of biotechnology and life sciences. Buffalo's $13 million cluster is capable of performing 5.8 trillion calculations per second and storing up to 16 terabytes of data.

In other Dell news, the company said Wednesday its PowerVault network-attached storage systems would support Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system. Dell will help customers migrate from the previous-generation Microsoft platform to Windows Storage Server 2003. Randy Groves, Dell's chief technology officer, said in a press release that his company shipped more network-attached storage units during the second quarter of this year than any other company.

Dell will offer Windows Storage Server 2003 on its PowerVault 770N and 775N systems designed for small and medium-sized businesses and departments or workgroups within larger organizations. These products also include support for 2.4- and 2.8-GHz Intel Xeon processors with 533-MHz front-side bus technology.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Greg Douglass, Global Lead for Technology Strategy & Advisory, Accenture
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter