Cray Looks to Strengthen Its Core Supercomputer Business

Cray is looking to re-establish its role as a top supercomputer maker by redesigning one of the largest systems in Europe.

Cray is looking to reestablish it reputation as one of the world's top supercomputer makers.

After several years of poor financial results and watching IBM and other vendors dominate the field, Cray is poised the regain its reputation for making highly specialized supercomputers that can handle a wide range of problems from climate modeling to origins of the universe.

On Jan. 14, the Seattle company is planning to announce that it has signed a new contract with Scotland's University of Edinburgh to redesign its supercomputer that forms the base of the High-End Computing Terascale Resource project. When the machine is fully revamped in 2009, it will become one of the most powerful systems in Europe with a peak performance of 250 teraflops, or 250 trillion calculations per second.

The current supercomputer in Edinburgh is a Cray XT4 system that offers a peak performance of 54.6 teraflops, which will increase initially to 63 teraflops with the revamp announced Monday.

Click here to read more about Cray's two new supercomputer models.

For Cray, the contract with the university will represent the first time it will build a supercomputer using the XT5h supercomputer system that the company introduced in November. The new system is a hybrid model that supports multiple microprocessor architectures and is another step in Cray's "Cascade" program that will eventually create a single adaptive system for high-performance computing that will allow one machine to handle different computing tasks.

This type of supercomputer will eventually reach the petaflop mark or one quadrillion calculations per second. IBM and Sun Microsystems also have plans to build machines that offer this type of peak performance.

While dominated by a few big players such as IBM, SGI, Hewlett-Packard and Cray, the supercomputing field is expected to grow about 9 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to IDC. For businesses such as Cray, contracts with large academic institutions help distinguish a company's approach to supercomputing from the competition.

"For us, it's very important because we are delivering our leading edge supercomputer that we are ready to install over the course of this year, and we will make our second installation there that will turn it into a hybrid supercomputer-the first one that will be delivering," Peter Ungaro, Cray's president and CEO, told eWEEK in an interview.