Cray Goes A Little Smaller With New Line Of Supercomputers
May 7, 2013

Cray Goes A Little Smaller With New Line Of Supercomputers

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Smaller can be better, especially when it is a supercomputer. Cray, a company often credited with building the world´s first supercomputer, has reduced the size of its largest machine. The computer maker introduced its “aggressively priced” lineup of supercomputers on Tuesday.

The new Cray XC30-AC supercomputer is aimed at an emerging class of customers who desire high-performance computing (HPC), but don´t have a budget of $10 million to $20 million for the high-end models used by large corporations, big government research centers and university labs. Unlike those behemoth-sized machines, which are typically liquid cooled and rely on optical networking cables, the Cray XC30-AC supercomputer utilizes many of the same components and software but it is an air cooled system and requires no optical cables.

More importantly it has a price tag ranging from $500,000 to $3 million. The target market is Fortune 100 to Fortune 1000 manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, oil and gas firms and even smaller universities, as well as government agencies and research labs that desire super power without the super-sized expense.

“Innovation is not limited to Fortune 100 companies. There are many Fortune 1000 companies, and even departments within Fortune 100 companies, with a growing need for a supercomputing system that provides a critical tool for taking advantage of performing complex simulations," Peg Williams, Cray's senior vice president of high performance computing systems, said in a statement. "With all of the features and functionality of our high-end Cray XC30 systems, our new Cray XC30-AC supercomputer is perfectly suited for technical enterprise customers, giving them the ability to leverage all of the world-class computational resources of a Cray supercomputer at much lower starting price points.”

Systems such as the CC30-AC could allow smaller manufacturers to get the same computing power as the larger players in respective industries. Cray is reportedly counting on this mini-supercomputer to fill a niche between its top-end products as wells as those of long-time competitor IBM, and what Cray sees as the “commodity cluster” of competition from Dell, HP and SGI on the low end.

“We´re seeing a new wave of demand because companies are gathering more data and asking more complex questions than ever before,” Barry Bolding, Cray's VP of storage & data management and corporate marketing, told InformationWeek.

While the XC30-AC will fill that niche it won´t exactly sacrifice on performance. The supercomputer will be able to provide speeds of 22 to 176 teraflops, which is a fraction of the speed of the $60 million Titan, the world´s fastest supercomputer — which clocks in at 17.68 petaflops. However, the processors and interconnect in the XC30-AC is actually a step up from those in the Titan, while the XC30-AC uses Aries, an even faster interconnect than the one found in Titan.

The result is a system that still has serious performance power but is designed to fit into a data center at a more affordable price. This could be a real benefit to those cloud based service providers that generally have only occasional need for supercomputing, and the XC30-AC could make such an option far more attractive. It could also provide a way for first-time buyers to look to make the step up to something truly super — at least in computing.