At ISC2006, the 21st International Supercomputer Conference, in Dresden, Germany today an interesting announcement was made by Tyan Computer: the launch of the Personal Supercomputer. Not quite a desktop machine, it is being marketed as a deskside unit, the Typhoon PSC certainly promises to pack quite a punch. The 8 processors and 64Gb RAM delivering a hard hitting maximum 70 Gigaflop punch to be precise. All this in a device no bigger than a couple of standard desktop PCs and bringing low noise and power consumption to what we normally think of as the noisy, high power end of the computing market.
Obviously most of us don’t need such power, but when has need ever stopped a geek from getting something? I might not be into the compute-intensive applications of the high end graphic rendering or scientific research sectors, but ever since visiting the BMW-Sauber Formula 1 racing factory just outside Zurich, Switzerland last year when they switched on Albert, their 530 CPU, 1 Terabyte RAM powered supercomputer being used to shave precious milliseconds off lap times through Computational Fluid Dynamics, I have wanted one. Not the multi-million dollar 18tonne beast that is Albert, you understand, but a smaller more affordable cousin that can plug into a standard wall power socket instead of a dedicated APC designed generator. One that would allow me to still be able to hear myself thinking, and possibly even the radio playing and the Typhoon PSC fits the bill with a noise level of less than 45dB. But then again, a couple of weeks before visiting the Formula 1 factory I was doing power-slides with Sauber F1 driver Nick Heidfeld at the Hockenheimring F1 circuit in Germany and I still don’t have the racing car I promised myself as a result.
The maximum configuration of 8 processors, either AMD Opteron 200 series or Pentium D based for now, each configured as four cluster nodes with two processors each should be enough for a spot of online gaming and editing the family holiday videos. Although I suspect I would have to go for the AMD model as this accepts up to 64GB of DDR400/333 memory compared to the measly 32GB of unbuffered DDR2-667/533 with the Intel model. The 8 integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports should sort my networking problems out, and a capacity for four Serial ATA HDD devices means storage is not an issue, not that it has been for some time now. If this is not enough power on tap though, no problem, I can simply daisy chain a couple of units together into a personal super cluster courtesy of the Linux and Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 support. Or wait for the Woodcrest Xeon 5100 based model to arrive in a few months.
As for cost, well, if you need to ask you probably can’t afford it. Never the less, I asked. If I get an answer I will let you know exactly how deep your pockets will need to be to enter the world of personal supercomputing…