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Cray Unleashes XD1 Opteron/Linux Supercomputer

The competition in the commercial supercomputer business is about to heat up, thanks in part to a newly available supercomputer offering from Cray .

The company announced Monday that its new XD1 Opteron/Linux based Supercomputer is now generally available. The XD1 is a Linux based cluster running AMD's popular Opteron 64 bit processor and can run x86 32/64 bit codes.

Depending on its configuration, the XD1 can house 12 processors with a peak processing power of 58 gigaflops , which is equal to one billion floating-point operations per second. Cray said it can also be scaled up to a 12-chassis rack that includes 144 processors and pumps out a peak of 691 gigaflops. The XD1 starts at prices under $100,000 and ranges up to $2 million.

Instead of the familiar PCI architecture of most home users' PCs, the XD1 has a direct connect processor (DCP) architecture that, according to Cray, "removes bottlenecks and memory contention to deliver superior sustained performance."

Cray cited test results from the Ohio Supercomputer Center showing that its DCP architecture had an MPI latency that was lower than Infiniband cluster interconnects by a factor of four, and 30 times lower than Gigabit Ethernet.

Cray has already lined up a few customers for the XD1. They include the Ohio Supercomputer Center, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Germany's Helmut Schmidt University, India's SAHA Institute of Nuclear Physics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

"Tracking a smoke plume as it moves downwind from a fire requires all the computational complexity of a weather model run over a nationwide domain," said Bryce Nordgren, a scientist with the Forest Service's Fire Science Lab. "Tracking the evolving chemical composition of said plume produces a task so computationally intense that we assumed we would not be able to afford any computer capable of performing it," he said in a statement.

Cray is also looking to position the XD1 in the Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) sector. The XD1's price point, Cray added, makes "supercomputer performance available for the first time at mainstream pricing and in a familiar environment -- the Cray XD1 supercomputer runs all x86 Linux applications using the MPI programming model."

Cray once held bragging rights to the number 1 spot among the world's most powerful supercomputers. That title now officially belongs to Japanese Earth Simulator, which took the ranking in 2001. But that ranking could change after IBM announced last week that its Blue Gene/L supercomputer hit a peak sustained speed of 36.01 teraflops.

Cray is also looking to reclaim the number one ranking with a joint initiative with the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to build a 100-teraflop supercomputer.

The ultimate capacity of the Cray supercomputer at ORNL could reach an 250 teraflops by 2007, which would represent about a 690 percent improvement over the most powerful supercomputer in the world today.