Dell introduces server with 96 CPU cores

Dell rejects Intel chips for the server, choosing AMD because its chips provide better performance per watt

Dell on Monday introduced a server that can accommodate up to 96 CPU cores -- a big boost in the computational power provided by its hardware.

The Dell PowerEdge C6145 is one of the fastest servers the company has ever introduced, said Armando Acosta, a PowerEdge-C product manager at Dell. The server includes two four-socket nodes for up to eight 12-core AMD Opteron 6100 series processors.

The server is designed to run scientific or math applications and can also be used in cloud and virtualized computing environments, Acosta said. An external chassis with multiple graphics processors can also be attached to the server for applications such as video rendering.

There is a growing demand by customers for more performance in servers that consume less power, said Tim Carroll, director and global lead of research computing at Dell. Power caps are being assigned to buildings, so customers are also looking to save energy by consolidating servers.

Dell is working with component vendors to meet those power and performance requirements. The company is offering Samsung's low-power memory with the server and chips from Advanced Micro Devices because those have more CPU cores than Intel's chips, which offer a maximum of eight cores. Dell won't offer Intel chips on the server for now, Acosta said.

More customers are also looking to add graphics processors alongside CPUs to create clusters for certain applications, Acosta said. Servers with GPUs may use more power, but they also can handle more work, which may reduce the need to pack more servers into a data center.

The company is working with customers to set up test beds in which the parallel processing power of CPUs and GPUs can be harnessed, Carroll said. Customers may use parallel programming tools including Nvidia's CUDA or technology consortium Khronos Group's OpenCL to write applications. However, Nvidia's CUDA is a more popular option for now, Carroll said.

The C6145 has up to 1TB of memory. The server is 44.8 centimeters (17.6 inches) wide and 79 cm (31.1 inches) deep. It is based on the PowerEdge C6105 rack-mount server design, which was introduced in September, and can accommodate up to 48 processor cores in a 2U box.

The server is also socket-compatible, so customers will be able to plug in AMD's upcoming Interlagos microarchitecture to replace the AMD 6100 Opteron processors. The Interlagos chips will include up to 16 processor cores and become available in the third quarter of 2011.

A C410X external chassis with PCI-Express slots can be attached to the server to add up to 32 graphics processors. The server comes with either the Novell Suse, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows HPC Server 2008 operating systems.

Dell also chose AMD over Intel because it provides flexibility on server pricing, company officials said. The C6145 is priced starting at $US18,000 and will become available on Feb. 28 in 20 countries including the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K. and France.

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