Cray ships first X1 system with IBM chips

The X1 supercomputer from Cray is now available with ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chips designed by Cray and...

The X1 supercomputer from Cray is now available with ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chips designed by Cray and manufactured by IBM.

Cray considers the X1 to be the world's fastest supercomputer, performing up to 52 trillion floating point-operations per second.

The X1 uses both vector processing, especially appropriate for large number-crunching problems, and a distributed shared memory system architecture, which allows memory to be distributed with a single processor, but shared by all processors, Cray said.

Four 800MHz processors occupy a single node, and each processor comes with 16G bytes of RDRAM (Rambus dynamic RAM), according to Cray's Web site.

A maximum of 64 processors can be used with the air-cooled version of the X1, but any user needing to scale beyond 64 processors will require the liquid-cooled version. The air-cooled cabinets can handle four system nodes per cabinet, while the liquid-cooled ones come with 16 nodes in a single cabinet, which measures 1.1m by 2.1m.

Cray will market the X1, with a base price of $2.5m (£1.6m), to research organisations in both the public and private sector for applications such as weather modeling, aerospace engineering, and academic research.

The US National Security Agency will also use the X1, which represents a return to the top of the supercomputer world for the US, overtaking Tokyo-based NEC's Earth Simulator.

Cray is building a supercomputer for Sandia National Laboratories using the Opteron processor due in the first half of this year from Advanced Micro Devices. The machine, called Red Storm, is expected to be the world's fastest when it is completed this year.

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