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Cray ships first massively parallel XE6

Baby super exec exits

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Cray has staked most of its financial 2010 on the Baker XE6 massively parallel supercomputers and their Gemini XE interconnect. With the first of a wave of multi-cabinet systems now out the door, Cray - and its investors - have some hope of making the numbers for 2010.

Cray launched the XE interconnect in May, and shipped a beta version of the XE6 system to the Swiss National Supercomputer Center (CSCS) in June for qualification and testing.

Cray did not elaborate on how big of a box this CSCS machine was. And Cray did not identify who the customer was who just got a multi-cabinet XE6 system it was bragging about today, either.

The XE6 compute blades that are lashed together using the XE interconnect are the same as the XT6 blades Cray previewed in November 2009, except for two facts. They use the new XE interconnect instead of the prior SeaStar2+ interconnect and they use the twelve-core Magny-Cours Opteron 6100 processors from AMD instead of the earlier six-core Istanbul Opteron 8400s.

CSCS likes Cray gear, and in June of last year bought a 141.6 teraflops XT5 system based on quad-core Shanghai Opteron 8300s. Last fall, as Cray was previewing the XT6 blades, CSCS swapped out the Shanghai chips for Istanbuls, boosting the performance to 212 teraflops. The Swiss government has ponied up approximately $160m in funding to get the computing facility in Lugano up above the petaflops mark by 2012. It is a fair guess that an upgrade to a full-on XE6 system is in the works for some time in the future unless the machine's hardware or software is not up to snuff.

In addition to the spooky XE6 machine and the beta box at CSCS, Cray has shipped a number of smaller XE6 development machines. The exact number of machines is a secret, and so are the customers at the moment.

What Cray said back in May is that it had over $200m in deals inked for Baker machines - that's the XT6 or XE6 boxes - but its one thing to sign a deal and another one to have a machine installed on site and put through qualification testing and then accepted.

Once a machine is accepted, Cray can book the revenue - not before. When reporting its financial results for the first quarter, Cray said it expected only around $30m in revenues in the second quarter and $50m in the third, but that if the XE6 machines take off, then it can book somewhere between $305m to $325m in revenues for all of 2010 - and be profitable.

That means Cray has to book around $200m in revenues in the fourth quarter of this year, which is a pretty hefty job, but not impossible.

In a separate announcement, Cray said that Ian Miller, senior vice president of marketing and the person in charge of Cray's Productivity Solutions Group, will be leaving the company on August 14. The Productivity Solutions Group is responsible for the Cray CX1 baby supercomputer product line, among other things.

Barry Bolding, the vice president in charge of Cray's Scalable Systems Group - the big, bad parallel supers - will take over responsibility for Cray's marketing and its entry CX1 product line. ®

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