Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for Linux Clusters and IBM G5 servers

A win in the nuclear submarine cluster market suggests that IBM's POWER architecture is joining the Linux HPC big leagues.

Lockheed Martin delivered a High Performance Computing (HPC) solution to the US Navy last year to run sonar systems in nuclear submarines. The solutions involved Apple Xserve systems using G4 processors and a Red Hat Linux-based operating system. While few people noticed the announcements made by Terra Soft, makers of Yellow Dog Linux, the event triggered ripples in the industry.

The Lockheed Martin Linux systems varied in two respects from the standard solution of the Apple Xserve. First, the solution did not use Apple's Mac OS X operating system. Secondly, Lockheed Martin built their own chassis and only used the internals of the Xserve. Lockheed Martin wanted the G4 PowerPC chips and Linux to provide a low heat, low power consumption solution. On a nuclear submarine, such features are essential.

In the past, the Navy relied heavily on older embedded solutions, which offered little ability to deploy software. The embedded systems, for example, could not adapt to Web Services that deliver geographic information (GIS) needed in the sonar process. A HPC Linux solution gave users the ability to adapt to various formats of data and encryption, which is critical to the timely delivery of data.

The PowerPC opened a whole new era, since it enabled engineers to use software, not hardware, for large computing jobs. Lockheed Martin's engineers discovered they could do more with a PowerPC with AltiVec than a traditional Digital Signal Processor (DSP), because it allows for an adaptive, flexible computing platform.

AltiVec(tm) is Motorola's trademark for the first PowerPC Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) extension. AltiVec was jointly developed by Motorola, IBM, and Apple. This same SIMD technology is called Velocity Engine by Apple. When IBM talks about this particular technology option they use VMX, the technology's original code name.

A SIMD system packs multiple data elements into a single register and performs the same calculation on all of them at the same time. In the Lockheed Martin solution, Terra Soft provided software engineering and support services. Modifications included device driver enhancements, kernel development, tuning firmware to allow serial port terminal control. They also aided in performance testing and helped with third party engineering and systems integration.

The integrated solution allowed Lockheed Martin to meet the requirements of the Navy's contract for sonar systems for nuclear submarines. The key to the solution involved a specific form-factor, processor density and Linux. Unfortunately, Red Hat does not offer a PowerPC port of their own software.

From Under the Sea to the Skies

In addition to using Linux in for sonar in nuclear submarines, Lockheed Martin demonstrated a further commitment to Linux by awarding a contract to CSP for use in the Navy's advanced E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.

CSP Inc., based in Billerica, Massachusetts won the bid for the Hawkeye with their 2000 SERIES MultiComputer products. The MultiComputer division of CSP supplies high-performance Linux cluster systems for a defense applications, including radar, sonar and surveillance signal processing.

CSP features Linux HPC products such as their FastCluster server products. The company uses the Myrinet interconnect standard for MPI interprocessor communications, PowerPC processors with AltiVec technology and Yellow Dog Linux which they claim as the industry standard Operating System for PowerPC.

CSP also says that they use a full compliment of vectorizers, compilers, development tools and run-time performance libraries from the Linux community. Their solutions provide instant booting from a cold start, error-correcting memory, a fault tolerant MPI-like library, hot-swappable hardware, extended environmental specifications and built-in test.

Does IBM Takes the Hint?

The High Performance Computing (HPC) market remains a bright spot in the technology sector. This time last year, Intel-based platforms appeared to have the edge in the market. For example, Linux Networx was selected to build the cluster of 1408 dual-processor Opteron servers for Los Alamos Labs. However, most HPC wins went to HP and IBM came up short to companies like Linux Networx and Penguin Computing.

The Harvard Research Group wrote in HRG Assessment: HP High Performance Computing LC Series that:

The Linux cluster market in 2003 was more than 1/3 of the overall Linux server market in terms of revenue. HP dominated the worldwide Linux server market with about 29% of revenue market share and Linux servers provided over 25% of HP's HPTC market share of 37%. The worldwide Linux cluster market is expected to grow faster than the worldwide Linux server market over the next 2 -3 years as transition continues to take place from RISC/Unix technology to industry standard server and operating system technology. This growth will occur because HPC buyers are focused on price/performance, and Linux clusters have a 5x to 20x price/performance advantage over previous generation RISC/Unix platforms.

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Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm. Maybe you should take the same course. You can't spell. Your sentences lack referential indexes and you use incorrect grammar.

Did Tom push your buttons?

Or did LJ's copy editor do that?

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This guy needs to take English 100. I don't care anthing about his speculation or analysis when he can't even structure basic sentences correctly. Further, the fact that he fades in and out of speaking to the run on G4s and the supply constraints present in the G5 indicates that he was, at least, heavily distracted when preparing this article. Also, who were his sources for the inuendo about IBM's attitude and Apple's HPC vice president? (We don't need names, but were they unnamed employees of said firms, or was this a conversation he had around the water cooler --perhaps with Alex "Sharky" over at CPU Magazine, who can also not spell or write his way out of a box.)

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

I work for the goverment of Canada... We where just about to finalize our migration from HPUX to Linux (redhat). But since redhat ain't cheep anymore we will be switching to Debian shortly.

The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

It is sold by Motorola/Freescale

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

Where has Rip Van Winke been?

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip. (What?)

Anonymous's picture

When Apple reported its financial results yesterday, it zinged IBM yet again for not getting enough PowerPC 970 "G5" processors out the door from its 300 mm wafer chip plant in East Fishkill, New York. When questioned about this, Loughridge said that IBM had doubled the yield at the plant from the first to the second quarter, and was on its way to double the yield again in the third quarter. He said that the ramp curve at the chip plant was exactly what IBM had planned, albeit pushed out somewhere between one and two quarters.

http://www.itjungle.com/breaking/bn071504-story01.html

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip. (What?)

Anonymous's picture

Sounds like IBM makes the G4 and G5.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

Last February Sony invested $325mn in IBM's chip plant. That made Apple very happy at the time because they didn't know where they would get chips since IBM was losing $250mn a year.

Now, IBM is profitable in the Chip business. IBM makes makes G5s for Apple.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

One version of it. But, IBM furnishes Apple's chip and their own. Motorola moved on to DSPs a long time ago.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

The G4 is not an IBM chip, period!
IBM has G3 and G5, though.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

The "G4", which is soley an Apple designation, is from the Motorola 7400-series of PowerPC processors. The "G3" processors are the 750-series, which IBM as well as Motorola produce (but I think Apple only shipped Motorola parts), and the "G5" is the IBM-only PowerPC 970 family.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This guy seems to have a Red Hat fixation...

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Which guy? The author? Nah. O'Reilly just released his book called "Exploring the (Sun) JDS Linux Desktop". That would put him as either a Sun fixated person or SuSE fixated person. Of course, he might just be fixated on Linux. Hmmmm.

If you're talking about the first commentor, yeah, some fixation exists. Who would go to the trouble of looking up an obscure web page about an IBM PowerPC low end server that only accepts the highest end Red Hat distribution? That's a little obsessive compulsive.

I found it informative though. I mean that Yellow Dog Linux is in Navy airplanes and nuclear subs. Does that say something about "upstart" Linux or what?

hehe

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Only Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) AS supports the Power PC and does not support Dynamic Processor Deallocation.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This page

http://www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/openpower/hardware/720_9124720e.html

shows 8 options for buying Red Hat Linux with the IBM 720, and one option for buying Suse.

How well researched was the rest of this article?

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

All you are seeing is a listing for different support options. If you know what you're doing and don't need to be sucked dry by IBM Global Services, you source the OS from either Red Hat or SuSE directly. After that it's pick-your-flavor. Personally I'd go with SuSE in this case, simply because I've found their corporate support of non-Intel platforms to be superior to that of Red Hat's. The recent IBM/Novell agreement has added weight to that argument IMHO.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

I hardly find it to be any /research/.
Geekspeak I would call it.

Red Hat wasn't ever big supporter of PPC, that's not secret. They enjoy growing Intel market share and try to be concentrated. YDL was always who delivered PPC Red Hat based systems.

One more important thing. It is only with PowerPC970 (aka G5/whatever) IBM have put low-end CPU into HPC. IBM is long time HPC veteran with its Power series CPUs.

PPC offers appeared less then year ago. And as we know HPC market is quite inertial: platform chosen once will be used for quite some time. And it is rather big reshape of HPC market is going to occur due to end-of-life of Alpha CPUs. Alpha systems are still on top500 list.

In my memory it was impressed that IBM started selling PowerPC/64bit based solutions right after HP announcement that development of Alpha line is stopped. And most of the customers wasn't impressed with Itanium performance-to-performance ratio to date.

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