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SGI Expanding the Reach of Linux

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Steve Neuner, the director for Linux engineering at SGI, has been pushing Linux up the scalability ladder for the better part of the 21st century. In August of this year, SGI announced that they were able to run a single system image of the Linux OS over 1024 processors on an Itanium-based Altix 4700 supercomputer. How was this feat accomplished? This week at the Gelato Itanium Conference and Expo (ICE) in Singapore, Neuner presented a session that described the Linux kernel modification that helped to make this possible. HPCwire caught up with him before the conference to ask him about the Linux improvements and where the future of single system image scalability is headed.

HPCwire: Can you give us a brief time line of how Linux has scaled from 8 processors to 1024 processors over the last five years?

Neuner: In the summer of 2001, we built an early 32 processor prototype system in the lab. SGI used it extensively to begin identifying and fixing scaling issues. This development system was later increased to 64 processors, which became our initial configuration limit for a single system image of the Linux kernel when we launched SGI Altix in February of 2003. A year later, that limit was increased to 256 processors.

Later in February of 2005, we started shipping the 2.6 Linux kernel, which was a major step forward that enabled support for 512 processor systems. In August of this year, this limit was increased to our now current limit of 1024 processors.

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