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Linux on Mars: NASA and SGI Search for Little Green Men
Linux on Mars: NASA and SGI Search for Little Green Men

Well, if we do find little green men on Mars, it'll be thanks to SGI and Intel.

NASA has decided to base Project Columbia, which will boost its computing capacity tenfold, on SGI's Linux-based Altix machines and integrate 20 512-processor Altix systems with 500TB of SGI's InfiniteStorage to create the Space Exploration Simulator.

At 10,240 Itanium 2 chips, the thing will be among the biggest Linux supercomputers in the world.

NASA says Project Columbia is supposed to fuel scientific breakthroughs in space exploration, global warming research and aerospace engineering by simulating space flights, projecting the impact of human activities on the weather and designing spacecraft.

Last year, NASA built the first off-the-shelf 512-chip Linux server named Kalpana. The agency is apparently partial to SGI because of Altix' globally addressable architecture, which allows complex data sets to be driven entirely out of memory, a technique that reportedly offers productivity breakthroughs that conventional commodity clusters and proprietary Unix servers can't match.

NASA and SGI are working on supporting globally addressable memory across 2,048 processors in a single system, which is supposed to let NASA push the envelope of scientific discovery because a supercomputer with a single pool of shared memory will run many scientific applications faster than a cluster of small systems whose memory is fragmented and distributed across an interconnect fabric.

SGI has delivered the first three systems to NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. It'll take a few more months to truck all the others over.

NASA is supposed to make a portion of the Space Explorer Simulator broadly available to the US scientific and engineering community.

NASA expects operating the Goliath to be as straightforward as managing 20 workstations.

Besides the system's own 500TB of storage it will leverage another 800TB of existing data. There's supposed to be instant access.

Project Columbia also includes storage technology from Brocade and Engenio, memory technology from Dataram and Micron and interconnect widgetry from Voltaire.

About Maureen O'Gara
Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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