Over the holidays, I took my daughter to see a movie about a Cajun frog. I admit to a pang of jealousy as I passed crowds lined up for screenings of "Avatar". However, given my situation -- namely a 5-year-old clamoring for popcorn and a Princess movie -- I made the best choice for my needs.
It turns out those Avatar-watching throngs got to see the result of another best choice; one made by a group of IT experts in Miramar, New Zealand.
Weta is an Academy Award-winning studio that did the digital effects for Avatar. The imaginations at Weta Digital have created some incredible virtual realities. Jim Ericson from Information Management quotes Weta's Paul Gunn as explaining that 'if it's something that doesn't exist, we'll make it.' Pretty amazing innovations coming from a relatively small place on the other side of the world from Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
In an article and blog, Jim sketches for us the 4000-server facility Weta used to render the VFX of the blockbuster. One eye-opener: the final output from this behemoth server farm fits on a single hard drive.
Weta's space- and power-constrained facility uses advanced techniques like blades and water cooling. Performance is a paramount need –so much so that their server clusters comprise seven of the world's 500 largest supercomputers. But their workloads didn't just need massive scalability, they also required high bandwidth between individual server nodes, and relatively local storage.
As Jim points out, they chose to build their infrastructure with HP BladeSystem, using the double-dense BL2x220c server blade. This very innovative, compact server (shown in the video below) let them achieve, in their words, 'greater processing density than anything else found on the market'.
Actually, any engineer could stick 64 Intel® Xeon® processors into a 17-inch-high box and get it to run. However, very few computer companies have the expertise -- and resources -- to make such a thing affordable and efficient, and to be able to warranty that it will run without pause for 3+ years.
Even more important: Weta possessed something relatively rare when they chose HP BladeSystem. They were already experts in bladed architectures. Their prior infrastructure was based on IBM blade servers, so they already expected the space- and power-saving benefits of blades. Weta was seeking the best bladed architecture. And Weta determined that, for them, HP BladeSystem was the best choice.
Since last November, another five spots on this biennial list are taken by systems based on HP server blades. On the latest list, I count 206 of the 500 fastest computer systems in the world -- over 41% -- as being powered by HP BladeSystem.
Some of the highlights really show how far high performance systems have come -- and how quickly they change:
- Quad-Core processors are used in about 75% of the systems. Only 4 systems still use single-core processors.
- The total combined performance of all 500 systems has
grown 33% from just 6 months ago.
- The slowest system on this June, 2009 list would have placed right in the middle -- number 274 -- of last November's list.
The latest Top 500 supercomputer list just got released. BladeSystem c-Class was well represented once again. With 201 entries (40.2%) of the top 500, it has the most entries of any product line. The ever popular ProLiant BL460c made up the most entries, but we also had strong showings of the BL465c and the two-in-one blade the BL2x220c, and the BL685c 4-way blade made a showing as well. BladeSystem supercomputers are used for university and government research, weather modeling, semiconductor development, automotive, telecom, IT services, web infrastructure, financial services, rendering, and many other applications. I'm sure Dell was excited with their new blades line as well. Since they like to compare their blades with HP BladeSystem, I thought I would share how the two compared on the Top500 list:
- HP BladeSystem had 199 more entries in the top 500 list than Dell's new blades
- HP had 39.8% more share than Dell's new blades (40.2% vs. 0.4%)
- HP had 100.5 times more entries than Dell's new blades
Dell's new blades accounted for two entries. Congratulations Dell!
Okay enough of these comparisons. We're excited to see so many customers from Audi to Zeta and lots of customers in between using BladeSystem. If you would like to see a listing of companies building supercomputers with BladeSystem, go check out the top 500 website listing and sort by vendor.