Supercomputers finding their way to the desktop

Nvidia announced the release of Tesla-based desktop supercomputers

If the definition of a personal supercomputer is that it is inexpensive, can sit on a desk and is at least within shouting distance of the Top500 systems list, new machines equipped with Nvidia's Tesla graphics processor are among the first in that category.

At the SC08 conference in the US last month, Nvidia and a group of systems vendors announced the release of Tesla-based desktop supercomputers. Nvidia's reference design includes four of the graphics chips, each with 240 cores. With a quad-core central processor, such a system would deliver almost 4 teraflops of performance and cost less than US$9,995, Nvidia said. Dell is among the vendors building systems that incorporate Tesla chips. "This really is the supercomputer on your desk," CEO Michael Dell told conference attendees.

The development of such offerings has advanced, in part, because of the billions of dollars being spent to create systems for gamers.

"That's the beauty of it," said Ian Watson, a chemist who uses high-performance systems at a pharmaceutical firm that he asked not be named. "The gamers of the world are paying for the development. If we can hitch ourselves to that train as it thunders past, that's very attractive."

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