Software company ScaleMP is claiming to have turned virtualisation on its head - instead of making one server look like several, it said that it can make a cluster of entry-level servers look like a single high-end machine.
Called Versatile SMP (vSMP), its software is a kind of pre-boot environment which loads from flash and uses Infiniband for connectivity. The clustered servers then appear as a symmetrical multi-processor (SMP) system, and can run standard multi-processor versions of Linux, said Shai Fultheim, ScaleMP's founder and CEO.
He said that while the server aggregation happens in software, like other clustering schemes, vSMP is below the operating system, not on top of it, which reduces the overhead involved.
"With [traditional] clusters, you need to work at the operating system or application level to parallelise it, and you have to set up a cluster file system and job scheduler," he explained.
"With our architecture and two two-socket machines with quad-core processors, you combine them into one, boot your operating system on top, and it sees one physical machine with 32 cores.
"We have RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 4 and 5 working well, SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) 10 too, and any version of Fedora after 4 is good."
The advantages are that there's just one operating system to manage, and any application suitable for an SMP system should run, he said.
"ScaleMP's technology allows users to benefit from SMP characteristics such as simplicity of installation and management, as well as large memory, while leveraging the cost structure of low-end x86-systems," agreed Joseph Martins, managing director of analyst firm Data Mobility Group.
The new version - vSMP Foundation Standalone - follows on from an embedded version used by system-builders VXtech and Flextronics. High-performance computers based on vSMP are used by more than 50 organisations around the world, Fultheim said.
The embedded version can combine up to sixteen x86 boxes to create a single shared-memory system with 4 to 32 processors (128 cores) and up to 1TB of shared memory.