Cray CEO Reflects on Bill Blake’s Legacy

I’d like to take a moment to celebrate our friend and a truly great supercomputing visionary, William “Bill” Blake. Bill passed away on March 31 and his departure leaves a huge hole in the HPC community.

We at Cray know we’re fortunate to have been part of Bill’s long history of accomplishments. Before we had the honor of working with him, Bill had already spent 30 years in the HPC industry leading the way on many transformative technologies in computing, data warehousing and analytics, hardware and software. He held executive roles ranging from head of engineering to CEO at great companies such as DEC, Compaq, Netezza, Interactive Supercomputing and Microsoft.

Bill has been a personal friend and mentor to me for quite a while. I have known him since he was leading the HPC business at Compaq, almost 20 years ago. At every step in his career, I tried to get Bill to join our team (it became a sort of inside joke to us about what he was going to do and how I’d try and counter that with a different offer). But in 2006 it finally happened and Bill joined us at Cray as a member of our Board of Directors. With his broad background in supercomputing and data analytics, he became a strong advocate for the convergence of these two technologies at Cray and stepped off the Board in 2012 to become our CTO and make his vision a reality. Bill was instrumental in bringing many of our existing technologies to the market, such as the Urika analytics systems, as well as kicking off a number of exciting projects that will make their way to the market over the next few years … so his impact at Cray will continue for a long time.

Bill always had the entrepreneurial bug and wanted to do another start-up so last year, after he felt he had in his words, “institutionalized” his vision at Cray, he moved to D-Wave to lead their R&D team and help make quantum computing real.

Bill will be missed by the many people he touched in his various roles across the industry but without a doubt the supercomputing community lost one of its brightest stars this week. On behalf of all of us at Cray — we’ll miss you, Bill.

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