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Blue Waters Project Back on Track with Cray Inc

Work on building the Blue Waters supercomputer at the University of is back on track, with a new partner.

IBM withdrew from the project over the summer citing technical and financial difficulties. But now, the university's National Center for Supercomputing Applications has received National Science Foundation approval for a new $118 million contract with Seattle-based Cray Incorporated.

Blue Waters Project deputy director Bill Cramer said while IBM's plans for Blue Waters had certain advantages, Cray brings more computational capability, more memory and more storage capacity to the project. Cramer added that supercomputers are Cray's specialty.

"The Cray Company only does super-computing," Cramer said. "So they don't do many of the market pressures that IBM felt. The Cray company specialize s in supercomputing and doing these very, very large projects and systems. And they've had a large history of doing that."

Cramer spoke Monday from Seattle, at SC11, an annual convention for high performance computing, where the NSCA and Cray announced their plans for Blue Waters.

Blue Waters is being built to help scientists and engineers work through their most complex problems, with an expected sustained performance level of more than one petaflop. That's one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

"And those scientists will be using it to simulate the world around us in everything from earthquake engineering and the damage earthquakes might do to buildings, to epidemiology to basic chemistry," NSCA spokesman Bill Bell said.

NSCA officials say Cray will start delivering hardware to the U of I Urbana campus before the year is over. And an "early science system" of Blue Waters is expected to be running a sort of Beta version of the supercomputer in early 2012. Cramer said Blue Waters should be fully operational by next fall.

Categories: Education, Technology