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Tyan brings supercomputing to the desktop

CeBIT 2006 Four blades in a stylish box
Mon Mar 13 2006, 14:06
EVERY SO OFTEN there comes a genre-bending product, and Tyan has one of those on its stand at CeBIT this year. It is called the Typhoon PSC or Person Super Computer, and is aimed at the scientific and HPC set. Typhoon PSCs come either Opteron or P4/PD flavours, and brushed aluminium or black finish.

The point of this box is not to make an ultimate gaming rig, it is meant to take what used to be the domain of a data centre and move it to under the desktop. There have been three problems with doing this before this point: heat, power and noise. If you have ever been in a data centre, you know what I mean, putting that in someone's lab, or worse yet, under their desk, was simply a non-starter.

This relegated people to fighting for time on a big expensive box, or worse yet paying for world-class cooling and power. Tyan thought there was a better way and built the PSC which solves all three of the problems, it is a self-contained mini-rack system with cute little handles and wheels. Yay.

Tyan-typhoon-front

There are two PSCs, the Opteron one is the B2881YDS4T and the P4/D model is the B5160YDS4T. Both are basically four dual socket blades in a box with all the necessary cables and attachments in a nice aluminium case. It also has little wheels and two carry handles which I have personally tested to get the rear shot here.

Tyan-typhoon-back

The specs vary between the models a bit, but there are eight sockets and up to 16 cores on either one, depending on how you want to set up the system. The Opteron can handle 64GB of memory, 32 for the Pentium. There is one S-ATA drive per blade, and they are coupled through GigE on the back. Each blade has an independent 350W PSU for a total of 1400W, which fits nicely in the 1500W most circuits can provide.

The big problem here can be cooling. If you have ever turned on a modern P4 rack server, it sounds like a Harrier taking off, and usually does suck for nearby small animals. This one is really quiet, so quiet that I could not hear it over the fairly low show floor noise until I stuck my ear up to the grill.

Tyan has solved all three of the problems to putting fairly massive compute power in a form factor that dings your shins every time you put your feet under your desk. Most people in the target market would be more than happy to pay that price to avoid time sharing on big clusters, that much is a no brainer.

There are a few minor issues with this box. The first is that there is no KVM switch, each blade has a VGA out and two USB ports, so if you need direct access, you may need an external KVM or to swap cables. Either way, this class of machines should need little more than an initial imaging and then it is remote control from that point on. The other problem is the interconnects, basically GigE. A crossover cable would do a lot for latency, but still, it is not elegant.

These boxes are the first stab at a new class of machines, they do what they say, and do it quietly. It would not surprise me to see the next version of these boxes with an integrated KVM and Infiniband or other high speed interconnect in back. For now though, the 'problems' are relatively minor, and the solved problems are relatively major. It is a good start to a new category, and one that will undoubtedly get better in time. µ

 

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