The supercomputing world is one of giant government labs, big machines and speeds measured in hundreds of trillions of calculations per second. But a new company called SiCortex is trying to bring the benefits of high-performance computing to smaller enterprises and research groups, particularly those worried about the rising cost of electricity.
Competing against the likes of Dell, HP, and IBM, SiCortex officials hope their approach combining high-performance computing with energy-efficient design is disruptive enough to shake up what they believe has become a stagnant market.
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"This is a systems company, and it's been a long time since anybody actually built and deployed a systems company," says chief engineer and co-founder Matt Reilly.
Also among its top executives is co-founder and chief architect Jud Leonard, who previously co-founded Agile Systems and TLW. Both Leonard and Reilly worked at Digital Equipment Corp., while Reilly is also a veteran of Compaq and Intel.
SiCortex shipped its first beta machine in July 2007 and went into production early in 2008.
In an attempt to convince customers that its systems really are unusually efficient, SiCortex developed a benchmark called the Green Computing Performance Index, which measures performance per kilowatt and gives SiCortex a score about 70 percent better than the IBM Blue Gene/P, one of the most advanced supercomputers in the world.
"We chose a processor whose design supported power savings in ways that were important to us," Leonard says. "We watched where power was being spent and worked very hard to control it. … It's a matter of tackling it up and down the line. That's how you get order-of-magnitude savings, instead of 15 percent savings."