“Gordon” Supercomputer to Use Solid-State Drives

“Gordon”, “Dash” – First Supercomputers with SSDs Inside

by Anton Shilov
11/05/2009 | 03:21 PM

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego has been awarded a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build and operate a powerful supercomputer dedicated to solving critical science and societal problems. The “Gordon” supercomputer will be the first to use solid-state drives (SSDs) in order to boost performance and lower power consumption.


When fully configured and deployed, Gordon will feature 245TFLOPs of total compute power, 64TB of DRAM, 256TB of flash memory, and 4PB of disk storage (4 quadrillion bytes of data). For sheer power, when complete, Gordon should rate among the top 30 or so supercomputers in the world.

“Moving a physical disk-head to accomplish random I/O is so last-century. Indeed, Charles Babbage designed a computer based on moving mechanical parts almost two centuries ago. With respect to I/O, it’s time to stop trying to move protons and just move electrons. With the aid of flash solid-state drives (SSDs), this system should do latency-bound file reads 10 times faster and more efficiently than anything done today,” said Allan Snavely, associate director of SDSC and co-principal investigator for this innovative system.

Gordon supercomputer is slated for installation by Appro International in mid-2011, and will become a key part of a network of next-generation high-performance computers (HPC) being made available to the research community through an open-access national grid. Gordon is the follow-on to SDSC’s previously announced Dash system, the first supercomputer to use flash devices. Dash is a finalist in the Data Challenge at SC09 conference to be held in Portland, Oregon, November 14-20.

Gordon builds on technology now being deployed at SDSC, including the new Triton Resource and Dash systems. As part of the Triton Resource, Dash leverages lightning-fast flash memory.

A key feature of Gordon will be 32 “supernodes” based on an Intel system utilizing the newest processors available in 2011, and combining several technological innovations through novel virtual shared-memory software provided by Scale MP. Each supernode consists of 32 compute nodes, capable of 240GFLOPs/node and 64GB of DRAM. A supernode also incorporates 2 I/O nodes, each with 4TB of flash memory. When tied together by virtual shared memory, each of the system’s 32 supernodes has the potential of 7.7TF of compute power and 10TB of memory (2TB of DRAM and 8TB of flash memory).

Gordon’s 32 supernodes will be interconnected via an InfiniBand network, capable of 16Gb/s of bi-directional bandwidth – that’s eight times faster than some of the most powerful national supercomputers to come on-line in recent months. The combination of raw power, flash technology, and large-shared memory on a single supernode, coupled with high-bandwidth across the system, is expected to reduce the time and complexity often experienced when researchers tackle data-intensive problems that don’t scale well on today’s massively parallel supercomputers.

“This will be a state-of-the-art supercomputer that’s unlike any HPC machine anywhere. Gordon, to be built on Appro’s Xtreme-X next-generation architecture, will provide an invaluable platform for academic and commercial scientists, engineers and others needing an HPC system that focuses on the rapid storage, manipulation and analysis of large volumes of data.” said Anthony Kenisky, vice president of sales for Appro.