Feeds

Cray to woo DARPA and others with server candy store

'Give us one of those, 200 of those . . .'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Heading to the singles bar

The first major push to turning these plans into reality will hinge on Cray creating a single user interface for all its current systems. It expects to roll this software out by 2006, while performing the usual upgrades to its systems. Such hardware advances will include the XT4 Opteron-based box that will support quad-socket boards. In addition, Cray will ship a follow on to the X1E with better tools for handling scalar code. It will also roll out a cheaper, third-generation MTA box and a low-end XD1 system.

During the blade phase, Cray will move to a common platform running Linux, a fresh version of its proprietary interconnect and more shared networking technology.

When (and if) Cascade arrives, Cray will take the whole plan to the next level by pumping systems full of different blades and then having an intelligent software package that can spread different workloads across the blades in order to ensure better performance. This strategy is what Cray is pitching to DARPA - which is also considering proposals from IBM and Sun. DARPA plans later this year to announce whether one or two of the companies will receive a massive grant meant to push the US's supercomputing capabilities a full generation ahead of what countries such as Japan and China have planned.

The core strengths of AMD's Opteron chip play well into Cray's plans. With one memory controller per chip, Opteron can scale well to four-socket systems and beyond. In addition, its open Hypertransport specification should help interest partners who can give Opteorn a bit of boost by providing custom technology that plays well in the supercomputing market. (More on this another day.)

So far, Cray is a bit hazy on exactly how it will create the software layer meant to divvy up workloads across the different blades. But it will basically require compiler software that can look out over applications and decided what parts of the applications are best suited to run on the general purpose Opteron blades or to make their way to the more specialized blades.

"With a new set of tools at their disposal, that work across processor technologies, users will more easily map their applications to the new system," Cray said. "Over time, these tools will get better and better at running optimally out-of-the-box. But users will maintain control and have better analysis tools at their disposal."

So, at first, it seems that customers will want to flag chunks of code that are vectorizable or instruct their apps to tap a library of routines sitting on an FPGA accelerator. Then Cray will deliver packages that do much of this work for the customer.

All told, Cray has a lot of work to do.

Cray has suffered through a couple of serious layoffs in recent years and struggled to make good on the Tera (MTA) and OctigaBay (XD1) acquisitions. In addition, Silverman noted that Cray may well not be able to pull off the "Cascade" vision should it fail to win the DARPA contract.

That said, Cray continues to have government customers wrapped around its finger. Only a few companies do the specialized supercomptuing work desired by the large labs and agencies, and Cray is really the largest company of that select bunch. Even if the DARPA bid doesn't come through, Cray can probably keep milking these guys for a bit more cash and get close to the Cascade result. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Bitcasa bins $10-a-month Infinite storage offer
Firm cites 'low demand' plus 'abusers'
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.