NCSA Blue Waters Project Awarded To Cray

An exterior view of the National Petascale Computing Facility where the Blue Waters Supercomputer was scheduled to reside.

NCSA and Cray announced that they have finalized a contract with the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to provide the supercomputer for the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters project. Back in August NCSA and IBM jointly announced that IBM has terminated its contract with the University of Illinois.

The Blue Waters Infrastructure

The multi-phase, multi-year project was awarded to Cray for $188 million and will start with a Cray XE6 system, upgrading to the recently announced Cray XK6 with built-in GPU computing capability.  Bill Kramer, deputy project director of the Blue Waters project at the NCSA at the University of Illinois, told The Register that Blue Waters was not a specific system, but rather a complete set of infrastructure, including a data center, plus computation, networking, and storage and, most importantly given the software goals of the NCSA, code that scales to real-world petaflops performance.

The completed system will support significant research advances in a broad range of science and engineering domains, meeting the needs of the most compute-intensive, memory-intensive, and data-intensive applications. “The project is an incredible undertaking, requiring commitment and dedication not only from NSF, NCSA, the University of Illinois, and the science teams, but also from our computing systems partner—Cray,” said University of Illinois President Michael Hogan. “This strong partnership further establishes our place at the forefront of high-performance computing.”

“We’re very excited to have been selected by the NCSA, NSF and the University of Illinois to deliver the Blue Waters system, which represents one of the largest contracts in our company’s history,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “Together with the recently announced $97 million contract to upgrade the ‘Jaguar’ system at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, these contracts demonstrate Cray’s leadership position in supercomputing. With a strong core business and future growth opportunities around our new initiatives, we are extremely pleased to be able to provide our outlook for 2012 of strong revenue growth and profitability.”

Cray and NVIDIA

The completed system will feature new 16-core AMD Opteron 6200 Series processors, a next-generation graphics processing unit (GPU) from NVIDIA called Kepler, and a new integrated storage solution from Cray.  The top Cray system on the Top 500 list, Jaguar, will also rely heavily on NVIDIA GPU’s and a mix of XT5 and XT6 cabinets as it upgrades to be known as Titan.

The new Blue Waters system will have at least 235 XE6 cabinets, more than 30 XK6 cabinets, and more than 30 storage and I/O server cabinets. The resulting machine will have more than 49,000 Opteron 6200 processors and more than 380,000 cores, with another 3,000 Nvidia GPU coprocessors. It will also take advantage of Cray’s Gemini high-performance interconnect, providing a major improvement in message throughput and latency. Blue Waters will run the Cray Linux Environment and use the storage subsystem under development at Cray ,running the Lustre file system. It is expected to deliver 25 petabytes of usable disk capacity.

Acceptance of the complete system is anticipated to occur in the fourth quarter of 2012.

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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