Supercomputers Don’t Have to Be Giant to Enable Innovation

Supercomputing systems offer organizations the opportunity to do research that would be impossible without advanced technologies. This capability creates the stereotype that supercomputers are often giant machines featuring rack after rack of systems that are often beyond the reach of many academic institutions, commercial or research organizations. New architectures from Cray are changing this presupposition about the industry. Cray’s technical enterprise caliber systems provide the performance needed to do sophisticated scientific research, but do so in a form factor that is cost- and space-effective for many types of organizations.

Large-Scale Cray Systems
In some cases, capability and performance are uncompromised and require computing capabilities of a large-scaled system. Cray has a number of large-scale systems already in use including the 260+-cabinet  NCSA Blue Waters supercomputer which offers more than 11 petaflops of peak performance for various scientific and engineering research projects. As one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, Blue Waters plays a vital role in allowing scientists to perform studies that handle tasks ranging from predicting biological system behavior and simulating how the cosmos will evolve in the future.

The Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is another example of Cray’s efficient and accessible supercomputing architecture. Titan will be the world’s fastest hybrid supercomputing and will use a combination of AMD Opteron™  CPUs and NVIDIA®  Tesla™  K20 GPU accelerators. This hybrid architecture allows Titan to perform performance-intensive tasks in an efficient way. Titan features 299,008 CPU cores and 18,688 GPU accelerators.

Examples of accessible Cray supercomputers
By comparison, an example of Cray’s technical enterprise systems, the new Fish supercomputer at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, packs more than 41 teraflops of performance power into just 2 cabinets by using the hybrid CPU and GPU architecture.

Fish provides a fairly unique take on supercomputing, but provides an example of where the industry could be heading in terms of more economical architectures. Fish is a scaled down Cray XK6m system that uses hybrid computing capabilities to provide performance functionality that enables scientific research in a variety of areas, while taking up little power or computer room space.

The new supercomputer is another cog in a long-term relationship between Cray and the ARSC at UAF. More than 90 different research organizations use the Cray supercomputers at ARSC and perform research in a wide range of disciplines, including biology, materials science, physics, chemistry, climate study, satellite observation and oceanography.

Accessible systems like the Cray XK6m supercomputer Fish enable affordable scientific discovery for technical enterprise organizations with frugal budgets and/or smaller data centers without compromising performance.

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