Intel Paragon

Last updated

Touchstone Delta (1990) built at Caltech - Computer History Museum (2007-11-10 22.57.36 by Carlo Nardone).jpg
An experimental Touchstone Delta(1990) built at Caltech
Intel Paragon XP-S (1992) - Computer History Museum (2007-11-10 22.57.18 by Carlo Nardone).jpg
Intel Paragon XP/S(1992) at Computer History Museum
Paragon XP-E - front.jpg
Intel Paragon XP/E(1993) single cabinet system Cats

The Intel Paragon is a discontinued series of massively parallel supercomputers that was produced by Intel in the 1990s. The Paragon XP/S is a productized version of the experimental Touchstone Delta system that was built at Caltech, launched in 1992. The Paragon superseded Intel's earlier iPSC/860 system, to which it is closely related.


The Paragon series is based on the Intel i860 RISC microprocessor. Up to 2048 (later, up to 4096) i860s are connected in a 2D grid. In 1993, an entry-level Paragon XP/E variant was announced with up to 32 compute nodes.

Mesh interconnect on XP/E cabinet Paragon XP-E - mesh.jpg
Mesh interconnect on XP/E cabinet

The system architecture is a partitioned system, with the majority of the system comprising diskless compute nodes and a small number of I/O nodes interactive service nodes. Since the bulk of the nodes have no permanent storage, it is possible to "Red/Black switch" the compute partition from classified to unclassified by disconnecting one set of I/O nodes with classified disks and then connecting an unclassified I/O partition.

Intel intended the Paragon to run the OSF/1 AD distributed operating system on all processors. However, this was found to be inefficient in practice, and a light-weight kernel called SUNMOS was developed at Sandia National Laboratories to replace OSF/1 AD on the Paragon's compute processors.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory operated a Paragon XP/S 150 MP, one of the largest Paragon systems, for several years.

The prototype for the Intel Paragon was the Intel Delta, built by Intel with funding from DARPA and installed operationally at the California Institute of Technology in the late 1980s with funding from the National Science Foundation. The Delta was one of the few computers to sit significantly above the curve of Moore's Law.

Compute nodes

The computer boards was produced in two variants: the GP16 with 16 MB of memory and two CPUs, and the MP16 with three CPUs. Each node has a B-NIC interface that connects to the mesh routers on the backplane. The compute nodes are diskless and performed all I/O over the mesh. During system software development, a light-pen was duct-taped to the status LED on one board and a timer interrupt was used to bit bang a serial port.

The B-NIC ASIC is the square chip with the circular heat-sink.

I/O nodes

The IO boards have either SCSI drive interfaces or HiPPI network connections and are used to provide data to the compute nodes. They do not run any user applications. The MP64 I/O node has three i860 CPUs and an i960 CPU used in the disk controller.

Related Research Articles

Meiko Scientific

Meiko Scientific Ltd. was a British supercomputer company based in Bristol, founded by members of the design team working on the Inmos transputer microprocessor.

The Intel i860 is a RISC microprocessor design introduced by Intel in 1989. It is one of Intel's first attempts at an entirely new, high-end instruction set architecture since the failed Intel iAPX 432 from the beginning of the 1980s. It was released with considerable fanfare, slightly obscuring the earlier Intel i960, which was successful in some niches of embedded systems, and which many considered to be a better design. The i860 never achieved commercial success and the project was terminated in the mid-1990s.

Network interface controller Hardware component that connects a computer to a network

A network interface controller is a computer hardware component that connects a computer to a computer network.

Pyramid Technology Corporation was a computer company that produced a number of RISC-based minicomputers at the upper end of the performance range. It was based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California

DECstation DEC brand of computers

The DECstation was a brand of computers used by DEC, and refers to three distinct lines of computer systems—the first released in 1978 as a word processing system, and the latter two both released in 1989. These comprised a range of computer workstations based on the MIPS architecture and a range of PC compatibles. The MIPS-based workstations ran ULTRIX, a DEC-proprietary version of UNIX, and early releases of OSF/1.

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface Operating system software specification

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a publicly available specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. UEFI replaces the legacy Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface originally present in all IBM PC-compatible personal computers, with most UEFI firmware implementations providing support for legacy BIOS services. UEFI can support remote diagnostics and repair of computers, even with no operating system installed.

ASCI Red Supercomputer

ASCI Red was the first computer built under the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), the supercomputing initiative of the United States government created to help the maintenance of the United States nuclear arsenal after the 1992 moratorium on nuclear testing.

Altix Supercomputer family

Altix is a line of server computers and supercomputers produced by Silicon Graphics, based on Intel processors. It succeeded the MIPS/IRIX-based Origin 3000 servers.

Diskless node

A diskless node is a workstation or personal computer without disk drives, which employs network booting to load its operating system from a server.

SUNMOS is an operating system jointly developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the Computer Science Department at the University of New Mexico. The goal of the project, started in 1991, is to develop a highly portable, yet efficient, operating system for massively parallel-distributed memory systems.

Intel iPSC

The Intel Personal SuperComputer was a product line of parallel computers in the 1980s and 1990s. The iPSC/1 was superseded by the Intel iPSC/2, and then the Intel iPSC/860.

The Virtual Interface Architecture (VIA) is an abstract model of a user-level zero-copy network, and is the basis for InfiniBand, iWARP and RoCE. Created by Microsoft, Intel, and Compaq, the original VIA sought to standardize the interface for high-performance network technologies known as System Area Networks.

VirtualBox Open-source x86 virtualization application

Oracle VM VirtualBox is a type-2 hypervisor for x86 virtualization developed by Oracle Corporation.

SGI Onyx Supercomputers

SGI Onyx is a series of visualization systems designed and manufactured by SGI, introduced in 1993 and offered in two models, deskside and rackmount, codenamed Eveready and Terminator respectively. The Onyx's basic system architecture is based on the SGI Challenge servers, but with graphics hardware.

SGI Origin 2000 Series of server computers

The SGI Origin 2000 is a family of mid-range and high-end server computers developed and manufactured by Silicon Graphics (SGI). They were introduced in 1996 to succeed the SGI Challenge and POWER Challenge. At the time of introduction, these ran the IRIX operating system, originally version 6.4 and later, 6.5. A variant of the Origin 2000 with graphics capability is known as the Onyx2. An entry-level variant based on the same architecture but with a different hardware implementation is known as the Origin 200. The Origin 2000 was succeeded by the Origin 3000 in July 2000, and was discontinued on June 30, 2002.

The National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) Leadership Computing Facility that houses the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility charged with helping researchers solve challenging scientific problems of global interest with a combination of leading high-performance computing (HPC) resources and international expertise in scientific computing.

New York Blue Gene supercomputer, also known as NewYorkBlue, is an 18 rack Blue Gene/L and a 2 rack Blue Gene/P massively parallel supercomputer based on the IBM system-on-chip technology. It is located in the New York Center for Computational Sciences (NYCCS). The supercomputer is owned by Stony Brook University and is located at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, Long Island, New York. The funds for this machine were provided by the New York state, with the leadership of the NYS Assembly. It began operating on July 15, 2007, when it was the fifth most powerful supercomputer. The renovation of laboratory space was supported by the New York state and U.S. DOE fund. As of June 2010, the Blue Gene/L was ranked 67th in the Top 500 supercomputing rankings. Together with the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NewYorkBlue provides New York state with more computing power available for general research than any state in the nation.

Exalogic is a computer appliance made by Oracle Corporation, commercially available since 2010. It is a cluster of x86-64-servers running Oracle Linux or Solaris preinstalled.

Dell M1000e Computer

The Dell blade server products are built around their M1000e enclosure that can hold their server blades, an embedded EqualLogic iSCSI storage area network and I/O modules including Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand switches.


QPACE 2 is a massively parallel and scalable supercomputer. It was designed for applications in lattice quantum chromodynamics but is also suitable for a wider range of applications..


Preceded by
Numerical Wind Tunnel
124.0 gigaflops
World's most powerful supercomputer
June 1994
Succeeded by
Numerical Wind Tunnel
170.0 gigaflops