Cray supercomputer taps AMD 16-core processor

The University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications will use a Cray supercomputer for the National Science Foundation's Blue Waters project. That computer will incorporate AMD's new 16-core processor.

Cray XE6 supercomputer.
Cray XE6 supercomputer. Cray

The University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has contracted with Cray to provide the supercomputer for the National Science Foundation's Blue Waters project. That computer will tap AMD's new 16-core processor.

Blue Waters will be composed of more than 235 Cray XE6 cabinets based on the AMD's Opteron 6200 Series processor (formerly code-named "Interlagos") and more than 30 cabinets of a future version of the recently announced Cray XK6 supercomputer with Nvidia Tesla graphics processing units (GPUs), Cray said. All of this will be combined into a single, powerful hybrid supercomputer.

The NCSA had been working with IBM and planned to use IBM's Power7 processor for Blue Waters, but IBM canceled that contract earlier in the year.

Blue Waters is expected to deliver average sustained performance of more than one petaflops, or quadrillion calculations per second, for scientific computing tasks, Cray said.

Cray Blue Waters breakdown:

  • AMD 16-core Opteron 6200 Series processors
  • Cray's scalable Gemini high-performance interconnect
  • Cray XK6 blades with Nvidia Tesla GPUs, based on Nvidia 'Kepler' architecture
  • 1.5 petabytes of total memory
  • Cray's scalable Linux Environment and GPU/CPU Programming Environment
  • One terabyte-per-second of aggregate storage bandwidth
  • Up to 500 petabytes of near-line storage

"More than 25 teams, from a dozen research fields, are preparing to achieve breakthroughs by using Blue Waters to model a broad range of phenomena, including...nanotechnology's minute molecular assemblies, the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang [and] the damage caused by earthquakes," Cray said in a statement.

The multi-year and multi-phase contract is valued at more than $188 million. Cray will begin installing hardware in the University of Illinois' National Petascale Computing Facility soon, with an early science system expected to be available in early 2012, Cray said. Blue Waters is expected to be fully deployed by the end of 2012.

The project is crucial to Cray, representing about 40 percent of the company's expected 2012 revenue, the company said.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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