Intel to team up with Cray

April 30, 2008 // 6:54 a.m.

Tags: #cray #hpc #intel #nehalem #supercomputer

According to tech site BetaNews, Intel is due to chalk up another major win over rival AMD with an alliance between the chip maker and supercomputer manufacturer Cray Incorporated.

Cray is a company most famous for making a series of C-shaped supercomputers which, at one time, were considered best-in-class and a must-have for every well-heeled university research team and NSA password cracker. The company has had a hard time keeping up with the rapidly changing world of high-performance computing, however – the University of Mannheim publish a Top 500 list of the fastest supercomputers in the world, and poor old Cray only managed to limp into last years list at a lowly 72nd, below a cluster built from Apple Xserve units.

Intel-based systems, on the other hand, account for three hundred and twenty two of the five hundred computers to make the list last year. While the company has a way to go to beat IBM, who hold the records for fastest supercomputers with their PowerPC architecture systems, it's clear that work Intel has done on the more prosaic server side of computing could result in a major shakeup in the supercomputing world, with a good partner like Cray.

BetaNews have been in touch with Nick Knupffer at Intel, and according to what they've learnt it's likely that Cray are after Intel's Nehalem architecture – specifically, the QuickPath memory interconnect. This technology, Intel's answer to AMD's HyperTransport, will allow clusters of Xeon-based chips to communicate with each other on an incredibly rapid basis – the key to performing the kind of massively-parallel computing required of a Top 500 supercomputer.

Whether Intel's expertise will be enough to help Cray regain their HPC top spot once more remains to be seen, but it's certainly going to be an interesting race no matter what the outcome.

Anyone here ever had the chance to play on a Cray, or do you only dream of such power beneath your fingertips? Share your comments over in the forums.

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