RealTime IT News

Cray Looks to Adaptive Supercomputing

Cray said it plans to take high performance computing to a higher level via adaptive supercomputing.

The Seattle-based company announced plans to develop supercomputers that integrate a range of processing technologies in a single platform. These "adaptive supercomputing" systems, Cray said, will be able to solve scientific and engineering problems more quickly and make programmers and end users more productive by adapting processing to the requirements of each application.

Where Cray now makes four separate specialized systems that maximize technology like vector processing and massively parallel processing, the company is looking to consolidate those in one system, moving to a blade model, and even, eventually a processor board with multiple chips to optimize different applications

"One size doesn't fit all," Jan Silverman, Cray's VP of corporate strategy, told "We want the machine to adapt to different applications. Our vision is that the application will automatically break out and choose the best processor for the job. We can get five to ten and in some cases even a hundred times better performance when a processor is optimized for the application."

Cray said it will continue leverage its expertise developing compilers and other software to automatically match an application to the processor blade that is best suited for it.

The main reason Cray says it needs to move to a more integrated, multi-purpose approach is the increasing complexity of applications HPC systems are being used for. Weather forecasting, for example, that has to take into account changes in the ozone layer, complex land and ocean models, and other factors that require different applications. Many of those applications are best suited to distinct processors.

Cray also gave AMD's microprocessor roadmap got a strong endorsement. Confirming an earlier announcement, Cray said it plans to collaborate with the chip maker through at least the end of this decade. Cray already offers the Cray XT3 and Cray XD1 supercomputers, based on Opteron.

AMD officials said the collaboration will further embed AMD technology in Cray's next-generation supercomputer products in the high performance computing market. Cray also will continue to develop its X1E supercomputer based on its own custom-built vector processors.

Near term Cray and AMD announced they will collaborate on Cray's planned mid-2006 proposal for Phase 3 of the federal government's DARPA HPCS (High Productivity Computing Systems). DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The goal of the program is to provide economically viable, next-generation computing systems for the national security, scientific and industrial user communities that are able to run applications at sustained speeds of one petaflop (million billion calculations per second) or more by the end of the decade.

"In the near-term, the AMD Opteron processor roadmap provides our customers a smooth upgrade path to multi-core systems," Cray President and CEO Peter Ungaro said in a statement. "Through 2010, AMD's multi-core processor roadmap and HyperTransport technology capabilities stand out for their ability to help meet our aggressive performance goals."

AMD is bullish on the broader, potential long term impact its work with Cray might have. Henri Richard, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer at AMD said AMD's collaboration with Cray is about more than high performance computing. "We believe the innovation sparked by this relationship, especially through our joint work on the DARPA HPCS proposal, could help define the future of the IT industry."