Cray, Dell, Microsoft Team Up on HPC Workstation, Cluster

Cray and Dell are partnering on a new integrated workstation and compute cluster aimed at such customers as SMB R&D groups and enterprises new to HPC. The Cray CX1-iWS systems offer an integrated high-end workstation and a compute cluster, all powered by Intel "Nehalem EP" processors and running only Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows HPC Server 2008. The systems will only be sold through Dell.

Cray and Dell are teaming up to bring high-end computing capabilities to workstation users.

The two companies on Nov. 12 announced the Cray CX1-iWS system, which offers a workstation running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system integrated with an HPC (high-performance computing) cluster running Windows HPC Server 2008.

The news comes ahead of the Supercomputing 2009 show Nov. 14-20 in Portland, Ore.

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The system, which will be sold exclusively through Dell, is the latest step by Cray and other HPC systems vendors to bring high-end computing to the desktop. In September 2008, Cray launched its CX1 deskside supercomputer, which was followed in July by its CX1-LC system.

The new CX1-iWS is aimed at expanding the reach of Cray's HPC technology, including R&D groups at SMBs, companies that have workloads that need more power than a traditional system can provide, and IT professionals looking to bring distributed HPC capabilities into their enterprise.

The system enables users to move their workloads from the workstation to the compute cluster as needed, according to Ian Miller, senior vice president of the productivity solutions group and marketing at Cray.

"The integration of workstation and cluster in one unit, with shared storage between them, means that users can easily move their jobs from the workstation to the cluster side of the box without moving their data or leaving the familiar Microsoft operating system environment," Miller said in a statement.

Every system comes with a dual-socket visualization workstation, a three-node computer cluster, storage and a 16-port Gigabit Ethernet switch, according to officials with both companies. The workstation and compute cluster are powered by Intel's quad-core Xeon 5500 Series "Nehalem EP" processors.

The workstation offers an Nvidia Quadro graphics card that can support two HD displays, and will ship only with Windows 7 and Windows HPC Server 2008.

The system comes in three flavors, with more cluster nodes, memory and storage being added to the midrange and advanced configurations. The advanced configuration includes eight 2.93GHz Nehalem EP chips, 24GB of memory per node, 160GB of disk per node, 4 terabytes of storage, the 16-port GE switch and the Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 graphics card.

Pricing starts at $40,000.