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Cray Wins $52 Million Supercomputer Contract

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the next-big-thing dept.

133

The Interfacer writes "Cray and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science announced that Cray has won the contract to install a next-generation supercomputer at the DOE's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). The systems and multi-year services contract, valued at over $52 million, includes delivery of a Cray massively parallel processor supercomputer, code-named 'Hood.'"

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Just anounced (5, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886006)

Hood is within specs for Vista. A big relief for Cray since they weren't sure it'd meet memmory specs for Vista.

Re:Just anounced (4, Funny)

Bruce McBruce (791094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886071)

With those 39 terabytes of memory, they might set their sights on the stuff dreams are made of - Vista Premium.

Re:Just anounced (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886418)

ONLY IF IT has at lest 128 mb video ram

Re:Just anounced (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886657)

It isn't too hard to find a video card with 128 millibits of video RAM

Vista will come early (1, Funny)

free space (13714) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886091)

Overheard at Microsoft:

Boss1: Cray has developed a computer that actually runs Vista fast

Boss2: I see, let's remove that "optimization" box from the gantt chart then..

Boss1: But customers will compain that they can't afford to buy a supercomputer

Boss2: What? it runs AMD! how can it be expensive....those morons

Re:Vista will come early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886201)

How unfunny.

Re:Vista will come early (1)

nickheart (557603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886362)

it's too bad that you posted anon! i was going to mod you up!

Re:Vista will come early (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887628)

Posts should be modded on they say, not on who said it. If you feel a comment should be modded up, go ahead and mod it up, even if the poster was anonymous.

Re:Just anounced (0, Troll)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887112)

Why is the DOE such a major American Government Organization? What have they provided the American people with in lieu of our upcoming $5 / Gallon Gasoline (after the Perdhoe pipeline gets shut down)?

And why is the DHS (which failed miserably during Katrina) more prevalent/widely-known?

Re:Just anounced (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887964)

Guess somebody's a liitle mad about having to leave their H2 parked.

The part of the DOE that uses supercomputers does nuclear simulations. They don't give a crap about your unwise car choice.

Re:Just anounced (2, Informative)

crgrace (220738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15888423)

The DOE runs our system of national laboratories, and is the successor to the Atomic Energy Commission. They aren't all that concerned with gasoline, as that is a small part of their work. They mostly work on nuclear weapons, fusion research, high-energy physics, renewable resources, etc. I used to work at Lawrenece Berkeley National Lab designing subatomic particle detectors. I couldn't give a rats ass about how much you spend for gas.

Just enough for them to limp along... (1)

boner (27505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886009)

52 million dollars over a couple of years.... Not much to keep a high-end computer company running on.

Re:Just enough for them to limp along... (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886127)

I'm guessing one of two options: Option 1: There are few enough employees that they can "only" get 52 million dollars and still get plenty of money. Option 2: They build more than one supercomputer at a time.

Re:Just enough for them to limp along... (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886151)

Option 3: Buy commodity hardware from AMD and resell it at a profit.

Re:Just enough for them to limp along... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886273)

Option 3: Buy commodity hardware from AMD and resell it at a profit.


Option 4: Selling complete supercomputers isn't their only business. How about support for all those old Crays, upgrades and replacement parts, consulting...

Re:Just enough for them to limp along... (3, Insightful)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886712)

I was talking about this just a few days ago, wondering if maybe cray had been doing work it simply couldn't talk about for uncle sam, it would explain their ability to stay alive. If a company like cray works on a super computer for say the NSA would we know? Maybe through FOIA, but I have no idea.

Re:Just enough for them to limp along... (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886873)

Nope, the NSA's budget is almost entirely black (covert). In fact one senator quipped after the NSA headquarters building was built that they spent x billion and had no clue on what.

Cash Machine (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886014)

Boy am I glad that Bush has destroyed socialism.

Re:Cash Machine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886916)


Ouch. And Doc Ruby seems to have lost his karma bonus too. You all can expect moderation whining below. Try a Greasemonkey script to collapse this entire thread. It works.

Re:Cash Machine (0, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887009)

Why not? After all, this thread comes complete with the usual Anonymous stalker Coward showing how pathetic and stupid they are.

Cool, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886022)

Does it run Linux?

Cray still in business... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886027)

Oh, wow! Does it run Virtual Machines?

Re:Cray still in business... (1)

knifey (976510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886345)

I hope so. That'll be the only way to get the multiplayer FPS games working nicely.

Brainwave - (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887555)

Wow..imagine a /Beowulf cluster/ of those virtual machines...
um - nevermind.

Let's just hope (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886031)

That the DOE isn't hoodwinked by using such an energy consuming device to research energy consumption.

Re:Let's just hope (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887230)

'Energy research' by DoD == testing virtual nukes.

I am just surprized it wasn't KBR that got the contract [lol]

Pinky... (2, Funny)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886033)

are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I think so, Brain! NERSC! POIT!

Re:Pinky... (4, Funny)

Verity_Crux (523278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886517)

are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I think so, Brain, but how do we get that many processors into a pair of rubber pants?

Re:Pinky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886898)

NARF!

Why Cray doesnt sell (5, Funny)

free space (13714) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886037)

The system uses thousands of AMD Opteron processors...


Because of it's power requirements, Cray's only possible customer was the Department of Energy :)

$52 million = (0, Offtopic)

IAstudent (919232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886039)

Luxo Jr. with true ray tracing?

Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (3, Interesting)

Jerk City Troll (661616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886048)

Cray finally figured it out. I have been saying for years: HPC/Beowulf clusters are about building machines around problems

That is why Clusters are such a powerful paradigm. If your problem needs more processors/memory/bandwidth/data access, you can design a cluster to fit your problem and only buy what your need. In the past you had to buy a large supercomputer with lots of engineering you did not need. Designing clusters is an art, but the payoff is very good price-to-performance. A good article on this topic is the Cluster Urban Legends [clustermonkey.net] , which explains many of these issues.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (2, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886117)

Try doing massive calculations using matrixes on a cluster? Large datasets need to share the same memory and only a super computer can provide it.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886126)

Not like I care. I just copy-and-pasted that comment from some random Cray article on Slashdot a while ago. I just want to boost karma so I can keep trolling without getting banned.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886230)

I also forgot to mention that I use these troll comments to get some visibility so that the URL next to my name will get me some referral points with dreamhost.com.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886241)

Is this really a cluster? Nothing about the system says conventional cluster anyways, just about everything is proprietary to Cray. If it's a cluster then it's certainly not in the original spirit of Beowulf clustering. It does not link together inexpensive servers with non-proprietary networks. Each Opteron core's hyper transport connection links directly into a very high performance network.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (2, Funny)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886265)

From TFA:

"The system uses thousands of AMD Opteron processors running tuned, light-weight operating system kernels and interfaced to Cray's unique SeaStar network."

That's a cluster.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886353)

I don't know what SeaStar is, but if it's anything like NumaLink/CrayLink, it's not a cluster. There's a very fine line somewhere and I'm not sure what it is- but look at say an Origin 3000 server- it has 4 or more node boards in one chassis that all communicate via CrayLink/NumaLink- does that make it a cluster? Ok- now scale it out to 128 chassis, is it a cluster then?

I thnk the distinction actually is, that with CrayLink/NumaLink, there's only one OS running, and the other chassis are all controlled by the master node- in a true cluster, each machine is independant, but takes commands/computations from the head node.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (2, Informative)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886467)

its pretty much a cluster. the seastar is a message
passing engine. its distributed memory and the OS
doesn't share any state (except for a library that
does filesystem indirection)

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (1)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886570)

Mmmm... yeah, it's a cluster. I think the distinction is one of convenience, not reality. Multiple processors run multiple instances of the same code; the only 'real' distinction between separate machines 'clustered', running identical kernels, and two chips on the same board, is the ease with which the processors can communicate. The application must be designed to utilize dual processors, just as the application must be designed to utilize multiple systems in a cluster. The latency is lower, and the cost is lower, so slices can be smaller. When we increase latency, the slices get bigger. Right now, the chipset does a lot of the low-level stuff, stuff that our 'cluster management' system must manage if we use multiple machines.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (2)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886248)

Perhaps I misunderstood your intent, but I feel it necessary to point out to you that the parent's discussion was directed at *this* cluster - the Cray in TFA. From TFA:

"The system uses thousands of AMD Opteron processors running tuned, light-weight operating system kernels and interfaced to Cray's unique SeaStar network. "

That's a cluster. It's also a supercomputer. Maybe you're looking for the word 'Mainframe'? Regardless, the article the parent links to is a really good discussion of clusters and their value/application.

Re:Cray "getting it" might let them come back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886220)

So could the government labs get better bang for the buck by renting tons of rack space at a nearby (or not so nearby) data center and tuning the grid software differently? To what extent is this a nationalistic boondoggle to maintain bragging rights to the title of world's baddest supercomputer.

I *have* to say it! (1)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886293)

Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these bad boys? >:)

Mod parent down (0, Troll)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886493)

See reply to first reply for confession of karma-whoring troll

I agree! Mod me down!! (0, Offtopic)

Jerk City Troll (661616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886565)

Yes! Yes! I confess! Can I be burned at the karma stake now?

Hood? (4, Funny)

nsushkin (222407) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886142)

It's named "Hood"? What are they going to calculate, protein folding in ice cream? ;)

Re:Hood? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886259)

Hey - fuck you, bitch-ass white boy. Back away from those copies of San Andreas, Friday, Barber Shop, & Boyz in the Hood, and shut the fuck up.

Another beautiful and completely unnecessary but 100% on-target post by:

Mr Trolley,
of Trolls, Inc.
(Website coming soon!)

Re:Hood? (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886296)

You can tell color just by text?

Re:Hood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886456)

Of course! His text is black, as is yours.

-Trolley

Re:Hood? (2, Funny)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886268)

No, the answer to the question: Prinz Eugen or Bizmark.

Re:Hood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886309)

How many Opterons in da hood?

You only get this joke if yer from New England... (5, Informative)

jpellino (202698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886408)

H. P. Hood is a beloved ages old dairy company that started outside Boston.
They had giant milk bottle ice cream stands, one stood outside the old Computer Museum on Congress St.
No slight intended concerning ethnic neighborhoods.

Re:You only get this joke if yer from New England. (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887524)

Thank you, didn't know the company. But I do know that research on protein folding in ice cream is not a joke. The big ice-cream companies in europe (nestle, unilever) are actually doing research on this kind of material, and this does involve computer simulations! So the GP is closer to reality than he probably knew :)

And to be honest, a research question like that is probably even a better defined one than just looking at the protein folding problem in general, and therefore not a bad way at all to spend your research money!

Re:Hood? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886483)

As long as they don't try to calculate a way to sink the Bismark they can do anything else. FYI - HMS Hood was sunk by ONE (lucky) shot from the German Battlecruiser Bismark. Went down with almost all hands. See http://www.gnt.net/~wright/bismarck.html [gnt.net]

Re:Hood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886542)

The Bismarck was a battleship, not a battlecruiser.

Re:Hood? (1)

ToasterofDOOM (878240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886745)

ya, thouroughly pwnt

Re:Hood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887625)

Also the largest British during the second world war. Sunk by the bismarck.

Prophetic?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hood_(51) [wikipedia.org]

mod 04 (-1, Troll)

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Pakistan? Muslum? Islumic? Loser (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886262)

Pakistan? Muslum? Islumic? Loser Cant do anythung right dumbfucks No shit they live in shit

SGI owns cray? (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886275)

I thought SGI owns Cray now? Wouldn't that mean that they made a deal with SGI?

Even so- I doubt 52 million is enough to save SGI in the long haul- especially if anything more than a few percent goes to actual hardware/research costs (and it will).

Apparently not. (4, Informative)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886288)

http://news.com.com/2100-1001-237517.html [com.com]

Even I didn't notice that happen. Apparently Tera bought Cray from SGI and changed the name back for recognition purposes.

Holy shit! (0, Redundant)

fz00 (466988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886287)

That about says it all...

GNAA Announces GPA Supercomputing Project (-1, Troll)

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Stupid is as stupid does (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886327)

You one stupid wacko and your mama shore done raised a fool

good to see... (3, Interesting)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886331)

the Cray brand making a comeback in the super-computer area. I can remember fondly the days of my engineer CS days longing looking at those Cray supercomputers (was that a couch around it?!? COOL!) in awe and just wondering what they could possibly be computing with 512M of RAM and a 2G super-cooled processor. SUPER COOLED!

Then it was back to my PDP-11 ...reality bit.

It must be tough to be a white boy.... (0, Offtopic)

Sethosayher (812094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886365)

...to be programmin' n da hood.

Is this big as far as contracts go? (1)

vistic (556838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886377)

I don't have any concept of scale when it comes to price for these things. Is this a big contract as far as supercomputing contracts go? The biggest? Average?

Will this thing be cooled with that cool nonconductive liquid goo stuff that it all just bathes in?

Re:Is this big as far as contracts go? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886473)

$52 million is ultra-cheap in the supercomputer world.

          Brett

Re:Is this big as far as contracts go? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886991)

Huh? The COLSA G5 based supercomputer which is currently ranked #21 in the world only cost $5.8 million so I wouldn't call 10x that much Ultra-cheap. The IBM JS21 at #23 is in the same balpark with a retail cost per CPU of $2500 and 2,048 processors (I couldn't find exact pricing for the unit, only the blades). Sure, breaking into the top 10 is expensive, but that's to be expected when even #10 has over 5K processors.

Re:Is this big as far as contracts go? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886750)

I work in the industry. 'Course it's easy for an AC to say that, isn't it?

$52M is rather large nowadays. At least, for a 'commodity' part cluster it is. For a 'vector' supercomputer, it may be only medium sized.

You can easily break the top 50 for less than $10M. A couple thousand nodes, each with two dual-core Opteron/Xenons, InfiniBand or Myrinet (maybe 10GigE), and a compiler that optimizes better than gcc... no problem.

That being said, NERSC is a pathologically tough customer. Cray will have to work very hard to earn each and every penny they get. It may very well be a 'live or die' deal for Cray.

Re:Is this big as far as contracts go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887013)

Might not have seen it in the news recently, but Cray has had several large contracts announced recently, including one that I believe was around $200 million over 3-4 years. Keep in mind in the supercomputer business (which unlike the other competitors, is Cray's only business), purchases are planned out for years and are relatively uncommon.

Begs the question ... (0, Redundant)

with_him (815684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886413)

What's under the hood?

specmarks? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886430)

Back in the day, one of the selling points of the soon to be released Cray 3 was that it was so fast, it could do an infinite loop in only 4 days! How have things progressed since '91:: Does an infinite loop only take a day or few hours now?

Hollywood announces "Boys in the Hood" sequel. (1)

agent (7471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886432)

Just like the remake or "E.T." the shot guns will be replaced with walkie talkies. No word on if the people using them will be able to chew gum, pat head, and rub belly at the same time.

Who else bid? (1)

sotweed (118223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886437)

Does anyone know who else bid on this contract? Was BlueGene a contender?

It would be interesting to know the other bids and their performance ...

Re:Who else bid? (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886641)

That was my first reaction: somebody at IBM is in deep shit.

It seems like they had a lock on the last few big DoE supers (and supercomputer sales in general); now all of a sudden we see Cray getting back in there. I wonder if IBM stepped on somebody's toes and got given the boot on this one (it's small, maybe this is just a spanking), or if they've gotten behind in the research and power/dollar worlds because they were doing so well for so long? Or is this just the government trying to spread the love around, giving a small project to somebody else for a change?

Reminds me a little of the whole Thinking Machines business a few years ago; they were the real darlings of the govt.-contract world, and then Cray and IBM started to get upset that TM was eating out of their rice bowl and lobbied Congress to even things out. Given that they're not around anymore, I think we can all figure how how that went.

Re:Who else bid? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887011)

Nah, DoE and DoD like to spread the wealth around enough to keep a couple suppliers alive and at least somewhat healthy. They don't like the idea of only having one supplier to turn too because they know that would cost them more than throwing some contracts at the less robust suppliers. Btw it's not just in computing that this happens, but in all defense contracting.

Re:Who else bid? (3, Informative)

cannonfodda (557893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887589)

I would imagine that IBM probably did bid. They would be crazy not to for $52M.

But....... "the Hood system installed at NERSC will be among the world's fastest general-purpose systems".

Nersc are looking for general purpose computing systems to fill the needs of 2500 users. Blue gene is blindingly fast at some things, but general purpose it aint. I've benchmarked both the XT3 and Blue Gene with a set of general Scientific Codes and the opteron delivers much better general price/performance for a representative set of tasks. Blue gene will fly if you have the time to get REALLY low level in your optimisation but most scientists don't have the time or knowledge to start dealing with that ind of thing.

ummm.... (1)

mikek2 (562884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886503)

...systems and multi-year services contract, valued at over $52 million

Ummm... no offense to Cray, but that's pretty f*ing lame.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need to 'encourage' our kids to desire scientific jobs.

Re:ummm.... (1)

boethius (14423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887452)

That's a nice sentiment but you can't teach your kids to desire scientific jobs. You can teach your kids about science and see if they take to it. No matter your enthusiasm, your kids might lean to the artsy-fartsy, literature, or driving a bus.

A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15886669)

Unfortunately this seems to be one of the topics that the slashdot bias and ignorance comes out in full force on.

* Clusters can not compete with supercomputers. They aren't even in the same market space. Cray doesn't make clusters, and clusters have not taken away their business.

* Cray doesn't take off the shelf hardware and sell it as fancy clusters. Actually look into the details of these machines. While processors sometimes are off the shelf much of the surrounding hardware and software is custom.

* This 50 million contract is one of many that cray has. They also just recently in the news got a 200 million dollar contract. They also are a contender in the DARPA HPCS thing. That could be a lot more if they get it. They aren't dieing.

* They aren't owned by SGI any longer. They were bought from SGI by Tera who renamed themselves cray.

* The top500 list is nonsense. It is based off of 1 benchmark (linpack.) That benchmark doesn't stress the interconnect too much and can allow clusters to appear to compete with supercomputers if you manage to ignore all the other factors. The number of teraflops has very little to do with performance. To see a more well rounded and thought out measurement of top systems check out HPCC's website. http://icl.cs.utk.edu/hpcc/hpcc_results.cgi [utk.edu]

* Bluegene doesn't kick Cray's ass. See the above and then see how it really performs overall. In some areas it does better and in others it just gets destroyed. Depending on the real world problem a full size blue gene may not even be able to perform as well as a much smaller Cray.

If you don't know what you are talking about look it up before posting. Just because it's the common belief doesn't mean there is any truth to it!

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (1)

compupc1 (138208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886976)

THANK YOU for setting the record straight. You are correct; clusters are very different. Some types of problems can be broken into mostly separate chunks of work; these work well on clusters. But for those types of problems which depend on a lot of inter-processor communication (e.g. the results of one computation are required for a significant number of subsequent computations), conventional clusters don't cut it. In these cases everything comes down to the bus between processors -- how they are connected together, how they share memory, etc. Without a specially designed network between processors (even off-the-shelf processors), your large "cluster" of processors won't perform all that much better than a small number of them.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (1)

obnoxiousbastard (239578) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886996)

It is always good to see a /.er bust out with a few facts rather than the usual bad puns, stale jokes, half-baked opinions and misconceptions.

Cray making a comeback!? Now if that don't beat all.

What's next? Borland selling a good, cheap Pascal compiler again?

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (2, Informative)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887068)

I dunno man. First of all, asking people to mod you up is kinda lame.

Secondly, to say the computers that Cray sells is not "off the shelf" can be argued depending on how you look at it. Today's Crays are not the fully proprietary machines of yesteryear. They all use AMD Opteron processors and leverage the onboard memory controller and hypertransport bus to make a processor fabric simple. The main custom items in the system are the "interconnect routers" that tie all the hypertransport busses together. Even the FGPA components that facilitates handling specific custom tasks on hardware are somewhat "off the shelf" and just woven into the greater hypertransport happiness fabric.

Sure, the average person is not going to be able to build a "supercomputer" like this with stuff they bought off the frys shelf. But are we talking about "off the shelf" as in the average electronics store? Or "off the shelf" as in parts that are pre-existing and available on some shelf somewhere and have published documenation?

Benchmarks of any multiuse system are never universal. They best they can do for a large list like that is to use a benchmark that can reasonably represent a common use of such systems. Cray has been good about having systems that can be configured to perform exceptionally for very specific applications. Modern offerings like the XD1 are no different in that respect as they offer that in the FPGAs. To say they are not in the same market space as custers is like saying MySQL isn't in the same market space as PostGreSQL. They both have their strong points but there is many instances where a user has to decide which to go with.

I'm going to stop there...time for sleep.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887110)

Just a quick note, while in part correct, i.g. commodity components,
Cray still produces several distinct systems and architectures not
to mention a vector product line.

I believe their current position is to use commodity scalar where it
fits, best in class if you will, and other components to produce
systems to acheive exceptional results on real world problems. Also
with regard to "commodity" I remember a certain Cray system from the
mid 90's that made a great deal of in roads in HPC, the T3E. It was
also built with commodity processors, Alpha's to be precise.

Oh they don't sell the XD1 anymore, as I understand it.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (2, Informative)

mjsottile77 (867906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887308)

"Benchmarks of any multiuse system are never universal. They best they can do for a large list like that is to use a benchmark that can reasonably represent a common use of such systems."

The linpack benchmark used to do the top500 list is a basic, dense matvec solver algorithm. (See wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LINPACK [wikipedia.org] ) This algorithm used to be the core of most scientific codes, back in the days when you would simply use the computer to solve a simple (but large) set of equations. In the last decade(s), the scientific world has moved to unstructured problems where the solvers are no longer solely matvec operations. Adaptive mesh methods, multigrid, and other similar "modern" methods in scientific computing do NOT have the same behavior as a basic dense matvec - a simple case would be considering a matvec problem where one deals with sparse matrices. Life gets even worse if you try to use linpack to reason about how a machine would perform on something highly data dependent, such as an n-body code or molecular dynamics simulation.

Linpack is really an archaic relic of the past, and it is NOT a benchmark of a multiuse system. It is a benchmark of a supercomputer from 15+ years ago. This is not news in the parallel computing world -- many efforts such as ParkBench, NAS Parallel Benchmarks, Livermore loops, etc... have been proposed as replacements for linpack to better cover the sorts of applications that a real "multiuse" systems will run. Unfortunately, the fact that most procurement folks and politicians who help fund these big govt. machines do not understand that linpack is a total waste of time have caused it to persist, contrary to the desires of people who either use the systems, or spend their careers studying performance issues in big parallel systems.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887270)

* Clusters can not compete with supercomputers. They aren't even in the same market space. Cray doesn't make clusters, and clusters have not taken away their business.

That's not very true. Supercomputers will have a solid market into the foreseeable future, but they certainly are facing competition from improvements in clusters.

Sometimes interconnect speed can be reasonably traded-off in exchange for a significantly reduced price, or for additional CPU power, local RAM, etc. Often, problems that are generally considered single-threaded can be parallelized, with a performance hit, but still turns out cheaper because of the huge price difference between clusters and supercomputers.

Claiming there is no competition between the two is nonsense.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (1)

cannonfodda (557893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887637)

AC has a point about benchmarks but I would say it's debatable as to whether the XT3 doesn't qualify as a supercomputer.....

To quote a collegue of mine "The interconnect IS the machine!"

The primary difference between a supercomputer and a cluster is the degree of itegration between the computing elements. You can demand that a Supercomputer MUST have a crossbar switch or similar close coupled interconnection method but that only scales so far. For a good example have a look at the earth simulator [jamstec.go.jp] , you're not telling me THAT is not a supercomputer ? The XT3 is similar in that it has a customised high bandwidth, low latency interconnect it just doesn't have the SMP elements that the earth simulator has.

As an aside Cray get a LOT of contracts that we never hear about . They are actually financially fairly healthy.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (1)

asuffield (111848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887770)

The top500 list is nonsense. It is based off of 1 benchmark (linpack.)


The other problem with it is that it only counts systems that people want you to know exist. For example, it's a safe bet that the NSA has multiple systems that would qualify but are not listed. There are probably a significant number of systems like that in the world - so calling it the 'top 500' is just silly.

Re:A few notes to clear things up (mod me up!) (2, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 8 years ago | (#15888225)

I'd say go ahead and mod him up.

He's right. For *ALL* computing tasks, using the right tool for the job can increase performance exponentially. Slashdotters should know this -- A 400mhz GPU can outperform a 3ghz CPU on vector and matrix operations by huge leaps and bounds

Clusters are just another tool that work very well for very specific jobs, and very poorly for others. These jobs are mainly those that can be massively parallelized (ie. brute-forcing a math equation -- Computer A should try these values, Computer B should try these values, etc...). Anything more complex than that puts a huge strain on the system being used to interconnect the machines. Once you start incorporating a fast interconnect system, the cluster begins to resemble an extremely inefficent supercomputer with multiple points of failure. At this point, it makes more sense to just use a Cray.

Over the past few years, for the first time, it's been possible to use the same chips in supercomputers as in desktops -- specifically the Opteron and the PPC970. As a result, consumers got more powerful chips, and supercomputers got a lot cheaper due to economies of scale. As an added bonus, now that the R&D is combined into one architecture, we're getting faster chips on a more regular basis.

AMD did a lot of things right with the Opteron. They made a series of consumer chips that were inexpensive, and blazing fast. They then took the same architecture, and made enterprise-grade chips that were rock solid, equally fast, energy-efficent, and still pretty cheap. HyperTransport is also an incredible technology, in that it's suitable for inexpensive machines and supercomputers alike. Itanium was none of these things.

I for one, am glad to see supercomputing coming back into fashion. The DOE's working on a lot of good science that will be essential for our survival in the long run, and the government seems to be providing them ample funding. Sure, NASA may do some cool science, but it's the DOE that's working on more meaningful things that can be put to use here on earth for the betterment of mankind. Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of the political mess right now is that the world is quickly realizing how desparately we need to move away from an oil-based society.

Possible Use (1, Funny)

Van Cutter Romney (973766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886735)

The Hood supercomputer at NERSC will consist of over 19,000 AMD Opteron 2.6-gigahertz processor cores...

The Ultimate Gaming Machine!!!

Codename "Hood" (0, Troll)

runlevel 5 (977409) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886771)

Real name "SkyNet"

Just think (0, Troll)

Slithe (894946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15886858)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of ... oh wait!

Hood, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15887282)

I wonder how powerfull the hood ornament will be.

Cray who? (1)

Heembo (916647) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887381)

Holy cow, I didn't even know Cray was still in business! And, does it run Linux?

Hood? (2, Funny)

Tavor (845700) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887442)

Will it be promptly sunk by the a German supercomputer named Bismark?

I will blow it out of the water (1)

sinntel (994628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15887581)

"The system uses thousands of AMD Opteron processors" I will create a new Supercomputer using the new Intel chips and call it the Bismark

White collar welfare. (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15888416)

Cray computers has failed miserably in the marketplace. The solutions it produces is completely out of whack with the cost of solving the problem. This 52 million bucks is just welfare for PhDs in Computational Fluid Dynamics, Computational Electromagnetics, etc. People building ivory towers in the skies with their heads in clouds ...

America would be better served if we sink the money in creating interoperability standards and creates ways to increase competition in the computational industries. Every company from Microsoft, to Apple to Parametric Techologies to SDRC to Oracle to ANSYS to itsy-bitsy-prof-and-grad-student-garage startups work to build vendor lock-in into every one of their products. The market creates rich rewards for locking in the user to one software product and preventing the user from migrating to a more efficient competitor.

Promote interop and competition. Super computers will become dime a dozen.

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