Cray Touts Low-Cost XC30-AC Supercomputer

Cray is offering customers a more affordable supercomputer solution as demand shows no sign of a slowdown

Cray continues to expand its high-performance computing portfolio after launching a lower-cost supercomputer designed (and priced) for new enterprise customers.

At the company’s annual user group meeting in Napa Valley, California, 7 May, Cray officials unveiled the XC30-AC.

Cheap Supercomputers

The XC30-AC is an air-cooled supercomputer that offers much of the same compute capabilities of the company’s XC30 system but at a price starting at around $500,000 (£322,872) and ranging up to $3 million (£1.9m). By comparison, some of Cray’s XC30 supercomputers can run as high as $10 million (£6.5m) to $30 million (£19.4m).

Cray Titan topCray, which traditionally counted the Top 100 among its primary customers, has been working to expand its customer base for several years. The XC30-AC is aimed at what the company calls the “technical enterprise,” and is extending Cray’s reach into the Fortune 1000 realm, or into departments within the Fortune 100. Among the target industries are manufacturing, life sciences, financial services and energy, according to Cray officials.

The new system comes at a time of change in the high-performance computing (HPC) and supercomputer fields. It’s no longer only the traditional scientific and educational institutions that are looking for high-end computing capabilities, but also large enterprises, according to analysts. Cray is looking to meet that demand with systems like the XC30-AC and its CS300 cluster supercomputers the company inherited when it bought rival Appro in November 2012 for $25 million (£16.2m).

“We are continuing to move in a direction that broadens our portfolio and brings to bear our expertise at the very high end to a broader customer base,” Barry Bolding, vice president of marketing at Cray, told eWEEK.

Growing Demand

The HPC space is growing rapidly, due in large part to increasing demand for supercomputers, according to analysts at IDC.

In a report in March, IDC reported that HPC revenues worldwide jumped 7.7 percent in 2012 – to $11.1 billion (£7.2m) – compared with the year before. Supercomputers – listed by IDC as systems costing $500,000 or more – in particular were in demand from business and countries around the world. Supercomputer revenues grew 29.3 percent, to $5.6 billion (£3.6bn), in 2012, according to IDC numbers.

Bolding said Cray is seeing increased interest in supercomputers in part because of the rise of big data. Enterprises are turning to supercomputers to help handle the data crunch, and a number of former supercomputer users are coming back for the same reason.

“There’s so much data … that needs to be analysed,” he said.

Adaptive Supercomputing

Cray is seeing the benefits. The company, which had more than $421 million (£272m) in revenue for 2012, is projecting $500 million (£323m) for this year.

According to Bolding, the XC30-AC, which is shipping now, can run the same workloads and has the same key capabilities of the XC30. Both systems are part of the company’s Adaptive Supercomputing vision of integrating diverse products into a unified environment, and both are powered by Intel Xeon chips and can leverage Intel’s Xeon Phi coprocessors or Nvidia GPU accelerators. In addition, both also feature the Aries HPC interconnect, the Dragonfly network technology – though the technology in the XC30-AC is more limited and doesn’t include optical cables – and support the Cray Linux Environment.

The key differences are around packaging, footprint and power and cooling. The XC30-AC is air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled, and it offers physically smaller compute cabinets that hold 16 vertical blades each. It has a single fan for bottom-to-top air flow and a lower power option supporting either 480V or 208V.

Among the earliest customers of the XC30-AC are a consumer electronics company and a global financial services firm, which Bolding said are not traditional Cray customers.

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Originally published on eWeek.