AMD chips fuel new supercomputer

The University of Delaware's new machine, dubbed 'Samson', is expected to rank within the top 200 of the fastest supercomputers in the world

Advanced Micro Devices on Monday added another Athlon-based supercomputer to its resume.

The Sunnyvale, California-based chipmaker announced that the University of Delaware has installed a 128-processor supercomputer based on 1GHz AMD Athlon processors and the Linux operating system.

The new supercomputer at the university's Bartol Research Institute is AMD's fifth supercomputer. It joins others at the University of Kentucky, the University of Utah and a pair of private companies.

For AMD's part, the effort marks further inroads from its roots in consumer hardware into the business market.

AMD has begun making some headway in the business market, especially by partnering with smaller PC makers. Recently, the company has partnered with Gateway and Micron Electronics, who each now offer Athlon-based PCs to small and medium-sized businesses. While large PC makers offer the Athlon chip in consumer-oriented PCs, they have yet to adopt it for commercial desktops.

The 128-processor computer is constructed from a series of nodes. Each node is like a standalone PC in that it has its own processor, memory and a high-end networking card. Communication between nodes is accomplished via a network and is directed by a host node.

The twist is that the AMD-based supercomputers currently offer only one chip per node, whereas some IBM, Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer Alpha-based supercomputers offer up to four chips.

AMD says it's still no contest.

"AMD has a very low price-to-performance ratio. You're dealing with a PC-oriented [processor] versus a part that doesn't have a large installed base," said Jeff Fonseca, channel sales manager for AMD, in San Diego, California.

AMD's efforts may be helped along by its 760MP chipset. The dual-processor chipset, which also supports higher bandwidth double data rate RAM, is a key component to the business push, as it is targeted at servers and workstations.

It would also be used to create two-processor supercomputer nodes.

But the chipset isn't available yet. AMD expects it to be ready in the first half of this year.

Still, the computer, dubbed Samson, is expected to rank within the top 200 of the fastest supercomputers in the world based on the Top500 Supercomputer List.

It was purchased by the University of Delaware using a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

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