Chevron adopts Opteron for high-performance computing

Chevron Corp. has moved to Opteron-based clusters for its high-performance computing (HPC) environment and is now running 700 servers, each with two dual-processor chips. IBM, which has been targeting Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron processor for HPC use, announced the customer implementation Tuesday.

Houston-based Chevron has been using 32-bit Intel chips and will continue running a mixed environment for its HPC work. But the company made a decision about a year ago to start taking advantage of the x86, 64-bit capability of Opteron, the first processor in the market to extend the x86 architecture to 64 bit.

Chevron's Opteron systems bring its HPC environment to 1,500 servers, with half running the 32-bit chips. The company -- which is using IBMIBM's e326, 1U (1.75-in. tall) systems -- plans to expand its Opteron-based systems and gradually shrink its use of 32-bit systems. Alles zu IBM auf

The Opteron systems are used with Chevron's custom-built seismic imaging application to help pinpoint energy reserves. The imaging software is similar to a CAT scan, except that it looks under the surface of the Earth to help find the best locations for drilling wells that may go as deep as 25,000 feet. "The business case for this is implicit," said Peter Breunig, general manager of technical computing for Chevron. "You don't have to justify it."

The seismic tests generate a large amount of data, and the increased memory capabilities of the 64-bit systems allows the company to improve image resolution, as well as speed up the process.

Energy exploration is "an inherently risky business, so hopefully it reduces some of our uncertainty," Breunig said of the upgraded systems.

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