Dell re-badges Cray for low-end cruncher
Windows only. Why?
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….
@Henry Wertz 1
"Windows traditional strengths such as video and 3D driver support"
Excuse me, I laughed so hard I need to wipe up the tears of mirth that fell onto the PowerMac workstation and flowed towards the Linux servers.
Thanks, I needed the laugh.
@The Indomitable Gall
Because obviously, the Dell Gold script-readers can handle support on the wee baby supers, right? I can hear them now...
Q Can you read me your Windows license serial numbers?
A All of them?
Q Yes please.
A I already keyed in my account number
Q I'm sorry, but I have to have the numbers.
A Sigh, Very well QAWXV YTRFW ... ... ...
45 minutes later.
Q Thank you sir, now how may I help you?
A Okay well, I can't get my (insert name of pricey software here) to use more than one core, and I think a disk has died.
Q Oh, I'm not sure about the software problem. Have you run Disk Defraggler? Click the Windows icon to begin.
I reckon support would be done by Cray in either case, maybe with Dell warehousing a few parts.
I'll pay a little extra for a Linux box. I specifically don't want to be tallied as a Windows user, helping Microsoft perpetuate the myth that "everyone" uses Windows. So far I haven't had to though, the models I've been looking at have been the same or less with Linux. I wonder what Toshiba would say if you went to return your unused software? Would they be like "Microsoft paid *us*, you owe an extra $20"?
Anyway... this seems an odd move on Dell's part. Microsoft's been trying to get into the HPC market for at least 5 years, with little luck. Scientific computing doesn't involve any of Windows traditional strengths such as video and 3D driver support (visualization is usually done on a seperate frontend system from the actual computations), support for slapping on random hardware (Windows hardware support is overblown, but in this case doesn't apply at all), or having a large pool of existing software (no-one's going to run Quickbooks, games, etc. on a HPC). Particularly in this market, the OS is to stay out of the way and let apps run as quickly and efficiently as possible, which I think Linux does much better. Well, anyway, I guess that leaves Cray to sell most of them...