CICERO — A local company is behind one of the top 100 supercomputers in the world.
Cicero–based computer manufacturer Seneca Data built HokieSpeed, a supercomputer at Virginia Tech. It ranked 96th on the latest Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, released in November.
A group of researchers in the U.S. and Germany compiles the list twice a year. HokieSpeed came in 11th on a separate list of the world’s most energy-efficient supercomputers.
“It’s been an evolution to get to this point,” says Chuck Orcutt, manager of Seneca Data’s Nexlink product line of desktops, notebooks, servers, and storage devices. “We now have capabilities that only a few other companies in the world have.”
Seneca Data has been in the supercomputing space for the last four or five years. The company’s 2006 acquisition of Alpharetta, Ga.–based Concentric Systems, Inc. (CSI) helped launch the business.
CSI did some work in supercomputing and Seneca has since built on that base, Orcutt says.
Supercomputers use clusters of servers to perform calculations that would not be possible for a single unit, explains Mike Smith, Seneca Data vice president of engineering. Typically, the work involves large sets of data, such as the information used each year to make new batches of flu vaccine.
“The amount of data fed into those calculations would overload a single server,” Smith says. “You have to spread it across clusters.”
Typically, the computers are used in fields like finance and energy for research. Universities and government-funded national labs also make use of the systems.
Seneca Data has added three people specifically for its supercomputing business in the last two years. It also has a space dedicated to the work in a new lab it built at its headquarters.
The business is an attractive one for Seneca Data because there simply are not many companies in the U.S. capable of building these systems, Smith says. And, it strengthens the firm’s reputation.
If Seneca Data can build one of the top 100 supercomputers in the world, potential customers know the company can handle a desktop or single server too, Smith says.
Trends in supercomputing point to their increased use by smaller organizations and even private companies to help lower the cost of prototyping and research, Orcutt adds. In fact, Seneca Data is preparing to launch a new supercomputing system contained within a single chassis.
It will allow researchers to run tests before doing potentially hazardous work on a much bigger, more expensive supercomputer, Smith says. It’s better to crash the smaller, less expensive system, he notes.
The new product will also serve a customer base that needs more power than a traditional system, but not a full-on supercomputer.
In addition to its Nexlink product line, Seneca Data creates specialized products for markets including digital security, digital signage, gaming, health care, and broadcasting. The company is mainly involved in producing servers that perform tasks like running display screens in sports stadiums across the country or powering online games.
The firm is also a distributor of other information-technology products and services. An affiliated company, Revonate Manufacturing, focuses on refurbishing old equipment.