With purchase of OctigaBay, Cray plans to build rackmount supercomputers

OctigaBay's 12K supercomputer squeezes high-end performance with 64-bit Opteron processors into a rackmount format.

Cray Inc.'s $115 million purchase of start-up OctigaBay Systems Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, will serve customers at the lower end of the high-performance computing market, said Christopher Jehn, vice president of government programs for Cray of Seattle.

Most buyers of massive supercomputers that perform trillions of calculations per second also buy smaller high-performance systems for code development and testing, Jehn said.

Cray has always built for the high end of the scientific and technical market. Cray X1 systems are installed at the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Army High Performance Computing Research Center in Minnesota and other sites and intelligence agencies reportedly provided some R&D funding for the X1.

OctigaBay burst onto the scene at a supercomputing conference last November, Jehn said. It shared Cray's design philosophy favoring balanced systems with high-bandwidth links between processors and memory.

OctigaBay's 12-way computer uses the 64-bit Opteron 200 processor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. The OctigaBay 12K has a new interconnect fabric, called RapidArray, that speeds up interprocessor communications, Jehn said.

Cray is also using Opteron chips to build a 10,000-CPU classified supercomputer called Red Storm for the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories.

Going to market

Delivery of the $90 million Red Storm is planned for the second half of the year, and Cray will eventually commercialize it.

OctigaBay is delivering the first beta models of its 12K computer for customer testing, with sales of the production model slated to begin late this year, Jehn said. The post-merger brand name of the 12-CPU system has not been set.

Cray's biggest supercomputer customer by far is the U.S. government. The U.S., Spanish and Polish governments bought almost all of the 25 Cray X1s sold last year, Jehn said.

Cray, IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are participating in a three-year Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to design new high-performance technology for national security needs.

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