Solid State Super

The Gordon supercomputer, currently being built at the San Diego Supercomputer Center by Appro International, is the first of its kind. Utilizing a quarter petabyte of flash memory, Gordon will power through data-heavy applications way faster than vanilla parallel-processing supercomputers. With 200 teraflops of total computing power, 64 terabytes of DRAM, 256 terabytes of flash memory, and four petabytes of storage space, Gordon will rank among the world's 30 most powerful supercomputers when it's completed. It could potentially achieve up to 35 million Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) and return queries 100 times faster than other spinning-disk systems.

Gordon is designed to primarily handle problems that scale poorly on parallel processing supercomputers, such as those posed by the "predictive sciences," which aim to model and simulate complex systems virtually. The Southern California Earthquake Center, for example, employs 3D seismic images to model the effects of tremors on infrastructure and buildings. The Gordon could significantly accelerate the processing of these model's massive data sets.

"We are clearly excited about the potential for Gordon," said Michael Norman, director of the SDSC, in a press release. "This HPC system will allow researchers to tackle a growing list of critical 'ata-intensive' problems. These include the analysis of individual genomes to tailor drugs to specific patients, the development of more accurate models to predict the impact of earthquakes on buildings and other structures, and simulations that offer greater insights into what's happening to the planet's climate."

Gordon will integrate both Intel's "Sandy Bridge" Xeon E5 processors and iSolid-State 710 drives to create a set of 32 "Supernodes," each capable of 195 gigaflops and requiring 64 gigabytes of DRAM. With the implementation of a virtual shared-memory system, each Supernode could produce as much as six teraflops. These Supernodes will then be strung together over a high-bandwidth network capable of 16 gigabit/second data transfers. "Gordon is a supercomputer that will do for scientific data analysis what Google does for web search," said Norman.

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