Terra Soft and Sony to build world's first Cell cluster for life sciences applications

Loveland 10 October 2006Terra Soft will construct the world's first Cell-based supercomputing cluster. In the fall of 2005, Terra Soft was contacted by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) to develop and manage a supercomputing cluster built upon the IBM Cell Broadband Engine and the Linux OS. This spring, Terra Soft was contracted by Sony and in August completed the construction of a 3000 square-feet supercomputing facility capable of housing 2400 1U systems. In this remodelled extension to the Loveland, Colorado headquarters, Terra Soft will construct a test cluster and a substantially larger production cluster.


Terra Soft will use the test cluster to conduct advanced software development, optimization, and testing with emphasis on Y-HPC and Y-Bio applied to the Cell Broadband Engine. The production cluster will be made available to select University and Department of Energy laboratories to further life sciences research.

The clusters will incorporate, in part, Cell-based PS3 systems. The Cell Broadband Engine provides a "1 + 8" multi-core processing environment, enabling optimized code to function at a superior level of performance over traditional single or dual core CPUs. With all 8 cores on a single chip, the code processes do not lose performance by dropping down to the memory bus as with historic, multiple CPU configurations.

Glen Otero, Director of Life Sciences Research for Terra Soft Solutions explained: "This cluster represents a two-fold opportunity: to optimize a suite of open-source life science applications for the Cell processor; to develop a hands-on community around this world-first cluster whereby researchers and life science studies at all levels may benefit. Once up and running with our first labs engaged, we will expand the community through invitations and referrals, supporting a growing knowledge base and library of Cell optimized code, open and available to life science researchers everywhere."

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is working with Terra Soft to optimize a suite of life science applications. Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Labs are also engaged, with select universities coming on-board early in 2007. Terra Soft is working to optimize the entire Y-Bio bioinformatics suite.

Thomas Swidler, Sr. Director of Research & Development at SCEI stated: "This cluster is for Sony a means of demonstrating the diversity of the PS3, taking it well beyond the traditional role of a game box. While we are not in the business of competing for the Top500.org nor building cluster components, this creative use of the PS3 beta systems enables Sony to support a level of real world research that may produce very positive, beneficial results."

Regarding Terra Soft's contribution to the project, Thomas Swidler continued: "In working with Terra Soft, we found a single source for the operating system, cluster construction tools, and bioinformatics software suite. Again, their dedication to detail and professional results has surpassed our expectations. We are very eager for the completion of this initial phase in order that the research may begin."

Both clusters will run the new Yellow Dog Linux v5.0 operating system; a beta version of Y-HPC v2.0, the world's first commercial, cross-architecture Linux cluster construction suite; the Moab cluster management suite by Cluster Resources; and Y-Bio v1.1, a suite of gene sequence analysis tools soon to be optimized for the Cell processor.

Kai Staats, CEO of Terra Soft, offered: "Working to complete the cluster facility has been the highlight of my time in this industry, a truly gratifying experience. What we have accomplished this spring and summer showcases the peak of our design, co-ordination, and engineering effort ... from facility design and construction in July and August to the cluster build-out in November and December - our best effort to date."

The final cluster components are to arrive early November with the cluster slated to be fully operational with the close of the year.

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. continues to redefine the entertainment lifestyle with its PS one game console, PlayStation2 computer entertainment system, PSP (PlayStation Portable) handheld entertainment system and the upcoming, much-anticipated PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system.

Terra Soft provides turn-key integrated solutions built upon IBM and Mercury systems, board support packages for Power OEMs, and develops cross-architecture Linux applications for high performance computing. As an IBM Business Partner, Mercury and Apple VAR, Terra Soft provides turnkey HPC systems. Terra Soft develops Yellow Dog Linux, a historic 32/64-bit Linux OS for the Power architecture and first to market with support for the Cell processor; the Y-HPC cluster construction; and Y-Bio, a cross-architecture gene sequence analysis suite for both workstations and clusters. More company news is available in the VMW March 2006 article Terra Soft offers Xserve bioinformatics cluster.

Leslie Versweyveld

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