Machine Design

$250 Million Supercomputer Headed to Petaflop Rates

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has awarded supercomputer manufacturer Cray Inc., Seattle, $250 million for a computer based on what the company calls Adaptive Supercomputing.

The Cascade system will resemble Cray's XT4 supercomputer. Cascade will be built from numerous compute nodes called blades. Early sections will use the company's Baker blades with AMD Opteron processors. Granite blades in later sections will further speed up software execution.

This technique matches the application to the most-effective processors. Cray says its hybrid design combines a range of processing technologies into a scalable platform.

"A few high-speed computers occasionally hit petaflop rates, or 1015 floating-point operations/sec," says Cray President and CEO Peter Ungaro. "However, the Cray machine, code-named Cascade, will work at sustained petaflops rates," he says. Delivery of the complete computer is set for 2010, but the company says parts of the system will be ready soon.

The system architecture combines multiple processor technologies, a high-performance network, and adaptive software. These will allow adding more processors to boost performance.

Cray will build elements of the Cascade program into a peak-petaflop supercomputer, code-named Baker, which will be delivered to the DoE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"High-performance computing is key to meeting requirements for national security and economic competitiveness," says Darpa Program Manager William Harrod. "It also contributes substantially to the design and development of advanced vehicles and weapons, and intelligence problems of code breaking and image processing," he says.

Cray Inc.,


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