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Cray offers a more modest supercomputer for the enterprise

Cray's new XC30-AC system offers a supercomputing architecture for as little as $500,000

By Joab Jackson
May 7, 2013 06:17 PM ET

IDG News Service - Supercomputer manufacturer Cray has expanded its portfolio of systems for the technical enterprise market.

The company's newest machine, the Cray XC30-AC, starting at $500,000, was built for midsized organizations that need some supercomputing muscle for research and development, though don't require a system that takes up half a data center.

"We're going for a technical enterprise customer with a constant demand for scientific computing," said Barry Bolding, Cray vice president of storage and data management. Cray says it has already sold a number of XC30-ACs, including one to a large consumer electronics company and another to a global financial services company.

Possessing a modest-sized supercomputer can be more cost effective than using a cloud service, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, Bolding said. All the major cloud services are optimized for handling bursts of computational activity. A Cray system, in contrast, is designed to handle the high-sustained throughputs required for large scientific modeling and simulation jobs, Bolding said.

"If you are driving a workload that could keep a one-, two-, or three-cabinet system busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then it is more cost effective to purchase that system yourself," Bolding said.

Cray's primary customer base consists of universities and government labs that need systems with tens of thousands of computational cores to execute deep research projects. In recent years, however, Cray has also been reconfiguring its systems into smaller packages for organizations that don't need full-sized supercomputers but nonetheless have jobs that could benefit from a supercomputer's massively parallel processing capabilities.

Many industries today are undertaking research and development activities that could require as many as 10,000 cores to execute, Bolding said. Cray is marketing the XC30-AC to Fortune 1000 companies in the fields of manufacturing, life sciences, financial services and energy.

The company had tailored some machines in its previous line of supercomputers -- the XE-6 line -- for business users, and companies such as General Electric and Exxon purchased these models. The XE-6 line ran processors from Advanced Micro Devices, whereas the XC30-AC runs Intel chips, which makes it a better fit for those customers running only Intel servers, Bolding said.

The new computer is based on the company's new XC30 system released earlier this year. "Under the hood, it uses the exact same technologies as the XC30," Bolding said. Such technologies include the new Aries system interconnect and the Dragonfly network topology.

Cray redesigned the packaging, networking, cooling and power to cut costs of the system, however. Each XC30-AC cabinet only has less than half the number of cores as the XC30 -- 128 cores as opposed to the XC30's 384 cores. This lower density of cores allows the cabinet to be cooled by a fan, rather than through the more expensive liquid cooling.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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