Cray, SGI Awarded $52 Million in Federal Supercomputer Contracts

The two companies will supply systems as part of the DOD's ongoing program to upgrade its capabilities in high-performance computing.


Supercomputer makers Cray and SGI together are getting more than $50 million in federal contracts as part of the Department of Defense's larger program to upgrade its high-performance computing capabilities.

Cray officials announced this week that the DOD had awarded the company $26 million for an XC40 supercomputer and three of the vendor's Sonexion storage systems, all of which will be housed at a facility in Vicksburg, Miss. The announcement came about a week after officials with SGI—which is now part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) after being acquired for $275 million—is receiving $27 million for two ICE XA supercomputers that will run at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

The supercomputers are part of the DOD's ongoing High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), an effort that has spanned two decades that is aimed at using HPC technologies to accelerate innovation and productivity within the agency's R&D, test and evaluation groups.

The new Cray system will be installed at the Army Engineer Research and Development Center DOD Supercomputing Resource Center (ERDC DSRC) in Mississippi, an Army Corp of Engineers facility that does R&D to support soldiers, military bases and civil works projects, according to Cray officials. It's also used by other military, state and municipal organizations.

The XC40 supercomputer and accompanying Sonexian storage systems will be installed in mid-2017, company officials said. The system will be powered by Xeon E5 processors from Intel as well as the chip maker's Xeon Phi Knights Landing many-core processors. The new Knights Landing chips, which began shipping this year, offer 64 to 72 x86-based cores and can be used as either a coprocessor or primary processor and include integrated memory and interconnect fabric.

Bobby Hunter, director of the ERDC DSRC, said in a statement that continuously upgrading systems is important, adding that "it is imperative that ERDC DSRC continues to accelerate technology development by providing researchers and scientists with highly advanced supercomputing technologies."

The two systems from SGI will be part of the Army Research Laboratory Defense Supercomputing Resource Center (ARL DSRC). One system is valued at $8.9 million, while the other is worth $17.6 million. According to company officials, the new systems will help DOD researchers scale algorithms, increase the ability to process experimental data in real time and better run live-virtual simulations.

The first system will be an ICE XA cluster capable of 1.16 petaflops of performance and powered by Intel's 22-core Xeon E5-2699 v4 processors. It will include 33,088 compute nodes, offer 3.4 PB of storage via SGI's InfiniteStorage 5600i technology and be connected through Mellanox Technologies' Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) InfiniBand products.

The second, larger system will be an ICE XA system made up of 73,920 Xeon E5-2698 v4 compute cores with up to 2.6 petaflops of performance, InfiniteStorage 5600i offering 11.8PB of storage and Mellanox's EDR interconnect technology.

The HPC modernization effort puts a spotlight on the importance of HPC technology, according to SGI President and CEO Jorge Titinger.

"DOD's annual, recurring investment in HPC is a testament to its belief in the power and strategic value of supercomputing," Titinger said in a statement.

HPE's acquisition of SGI also speaks to the importance of supercomputing. HPE completed the deal Nov. 1, with officials saying the move will strengthen its position in the mission-critical and HPC segments of the larger global server market.

"This deal combines SGI's computing strengths with HPE's global reach," Antonio Neri, executive vice president and general manager of HPE's Enterprise Group, said in a statement. "SGI's technologies and services will further our position in high-performance computing and give our customers the best of data management capabilities for real-time analytics."

HPE officials said HPC is an $11 billion market that is expected to grow 6 percent to 8 percent a year over the next five years.