Skip to main content

NCSA, Cray partner on sustained-petascale Blue Waters supercomputer

NCSA media:
Bill Bell

Cray media:
Nick Davis

SEATTLE, WA — The University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has finalized a contract with Cray Inc. (Nasdaq: CRAY), to provide the supercomputer for the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters project.

This new Cray supercomputer 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. Blue Waters is expected to deliver sustained performance, on average, of more than one petaflops on a set of benchmark codes that represent those applications and domains.

More than 25 teams, from a dozen research fields, are preparing to achieve breakthroughs by using Blue Waters to model a broad range of phenomena, including: nanotechnology’s minute molecular assemblies, the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang, the damage caused by earthquakes and the formation of tornadoes, the mechanism by which viruses enter cells, and improved climate change predictions.

Blue Waters will be composed of more than 235 Cray XE6 cabinets based on the recently announced AMD Opteron™ 6200 Series processor (formerly code-named “Interlagos”) and more than 30 cabinets of a future version of the recently announced Cray XK6 supercomputer with NVIDIA® Tesla™ GPU computing capability incorporated into a single, powerful hybrid supercomputer. These Cray XK nodes will further increase the measured sustained performance on real science problems.

“We are extremely pleased to have forged a strong partnership with Cray. This configuration will be the most balanced, powerful, and useable system available when it comes online. By incorporating a future version of the XK6 system, Blue Waters will also provide a bridge to the future of scientific computing,” said NCSA Director Thom Dunning.

“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. This strong partnership further establishes our place at the forefront of high-performance computing,” said University of Illinois President Michael Hogan.

“The Blue Waters team has the technological capability and the commitment to make this important resource a reality—a resource that will help scientists and engineers solve their most challenging problems,” said Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Cray Blue Waters system will employ:

  • Cray’s scalable Gemini high-performance interconnect, providing a major improvement in message throughput and latency.
  • 16-core AMD (NYSE: AMD) Opteron™ 6200 Series processors, selected by the editors of HPCwire as one of the top five new technologies to watch in 2011.
  • Cray XK6 blades with NVIDIA® Tesla™ GPUs, based on NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) next-generation ‘Kepler’ architecture, which is expected to more than double the performance of the Fermi GPU on double-precision arithmetic.
  • 1.5 petabytes of total memory (or four gigabytes per AMD Opteron 6200 Series processor core).
  • Cray’s scalable Linux Environment (CLE) and HPC-focused GPU/CPU Programming Environment (CPE).
  • A Cray integrated Lustre parallel file system with more than one terabyte-per-second of aggregate storage bandwidth and more than 25 petabytes of user accessible storage.
  • Up to 500 petabytes of near-line storage and up to 300 gigabits per second of wide area connections.

“We are extremely proud to have been selected to deliver the Blue Waters system through this important partnership with the NSF, the University of Illinois, and NCSA,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “It’s a honor to be able provide the NSF’s vast user community with a Cray supercomputer specifically designed for delivering real, sustained petascale performance across a broad range of breakthrough science and engineering applications. It’s a passion that drives all the members of this partnership, and we are pleased to be a part of it.”

Consisting of products and services, the multi-year and multi-phase contract is valued at more than $188 million. Cray will begin installing hardware in the University of Illinois’ National Petascale Computing Facility soon, with an early science system expected to be available in early 2012. Blue Waters is expected to be fully deployed by the end of 2012.

As supercomputers continue to grow in scale and complexity, it becomes more challenging to effectively harness their power. Since the Blue Waters project was launched in 2008, NCSA has helped researchers prepare their codes for the massive scale of this and other extreme-scale systems. NCSA also initiated a broad range of R&D projects designed to improve the performance of the existing HPC software stack and facilitate the development and use of applications on Blue Waters and other petascale computers.

The Blue Waters project is now prepared to mount a major, community-based effort to move the state of computational science into the petascale era. The center will work with the computational and computer science and engineering communities to help them take full advantage of Blue Waters as well as future supercomputers. The effort will focus on scalability and resilience of algorithms and applications, the use of accelerators to improve time to solution for science and engineering problems, and enabling applications to simultaneously use computational components with different characteristics.

For more information about the Blue Waters project, see:

For a Cray press release with more information regarding the financial details of the contract and its expected impact on Cray’s 2012 outlook, see:

About Cray Inc.
As a global leader in supercomputing, Cray provides highly advanced supercomputers and world-class services and support to government, industry and academia. Cray technology is designed to enable scientists and engineers to achieve remarkable breakthroughs by accelerating performance, improving efficiency and extending the capabilities of their most demanding applications. Cray’s Adaptive Supercomputing vision is focused on delivering innovative next-generation products that integrate diverse processing technologies into a unified architecture, allowing customers to surpass today’s limitations and meeting the market’s continued demand for realized performance. Go to for more information.

About the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provides powerful computers and expert support that help thousands of scientists and engineers across the country improve our world. Established in 1986 as one of the original sites of the National Science Foundation’s Supercomputer Centers Program, NCSA is supported by the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, the National Science Foundation, and grants from other federal agencies.

Safe Harbor Statement
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, including, but not limited to, statements related to Cray’s ability to deliver the Cray supercomputer to NCSA when expected, Cray’s ability to deliver a Cray supercomputer that meets NCSA’s needs and the expected timing of the system being available and fully deployed. These statements involve current expectations, forecasts of future events and other statements that are not historical facts. Inaccurate assumptions and known and unknown risks and uncertainties can affect the accuracy of forward-looking statements and cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. Factors that could affect actual future events or results include, but are not limited to, the risk that the Cray supercomputer required by NCSA is not delivered and/or accepted in a timely fashion or does not perform as expected, the risk that NVIDIA’s Tesla GPUs based on the next-generation ‘Kepler’ architecture is not available with the performance expected or when expected and such other risks as identified in the Company’s quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2011, and from time to time in other reports filed by Cray with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, more information regarding the expected impact of the contract on Cray’s 2012 financial results and the risks associated with that impact can be found in Cray’s press release announcing 2012 outlook referenced above. You should not rely unduly on these forward-looking statements, which apply only as of the date of this release. Cray undertakes no duty to publicly announce or report revisions to these statements as new information becomes available that may change the Company’s expectations.

Cray is a registered trademark of Cray Inc. in the United States and other countries, and Cray XE6, Cray XK6, Cray XK, Gemini and Cray Linux Environment are trademarks of Cray Inc. Other product and service names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Disclaimer: Due to changes in website systems, we've adjusted archived content to fit the present-day site and the articles will not appear in their original published format. Formatting, header information, photographs and other illustrations are not available in archived articles.

Back to top