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Dell re-badges Cray for low-end cruncher

Windows only. Why?

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Our pal Timothy Prickett Morgan recently revealed details behind Dell’s agreement to resell Cray’s CX1 entry-level supercomputer.

It’s a blade-based box that utilizes Intel Nehalem processors and high-end NVIDIA graphics cards. This agreement is good news for Cray, as it could definitely benefit from more feet on the street peddling their gear – even if the Cray nameplate is replaced by Dell. It’s all volume, and the money all spends the same, and that’s exactly what Cray needs to survive the increasingly competitive world of HPC.

A push from Dell could potentially get the Cray-manufactured gear into business customers that Cray could never reach with their small direct sales force and smattering of partners. This isn’t a bad deal for Dell either, as it gives it some ‘certified supercomputer gear’ for a genuine supercomputing vendor to put in the catalog.

There is one huge difference between the Dell and Cray versions of this system. Dell will only support Windows on this system, while Cray offers it in both Microsoft and Linux trim. Microsoft is trying to make a big push into HPC (with good reason), it currently has little traction in the market.

The fact that this is an MS-only box will radically reduce the potential sales for the Dell version of the system. What was Dell thinking on this score? Is it seeing significant demand for Microsoft-flavored HPC solutions? Or are is it positioning itself to take advantage of a future surge of interest from Microsoft-centric business customers who will be dipping their toes into HPC? It also could be that MS is subsidizing Dell’s efforts in a bid to seed the market with Windows HPC solutions.

Hard to say, but I’m hoping to get some answers at SC09 this week….

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