Cray Inc. has landed a $600 million contract to develop a leading-edge supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
This is the third so-called “exascale” supercomputer contract Cray has secured from a lab under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the first with the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency under DOE. The Cray supercomputer, slated for delivery in late 2022, will be used by the NNSA primarily for classified purposes to ensure safety, reliability and the security of the nation’s nuclear stockpiles.
The new supercomputer, dubbed El Capitan, will be developed using Cray’s Shasta architecture and feature software that opens the door to bring supercomputing power to business-enterprise environments. Cray says the new software platform “fuses supercomputing performance and capability with the modularity… and ease-of-use of cloud computing” and is designed “to address the growing need for supercomputing across government and private industries.” The new software platform is slated to be available starting in fourth-quarter 2019.
“What is the domain of a few national laboratories today is fast becoming a necessity for every enterprise,” says Peter Ungaro, chief executive officer of Cray. “The same Cray technology that powers exascale systems [computers that solve problems at a quintillion calculations a second] can be delivered in a single, low-cost rack and ready to integrate into any data-center environment.”
The Seattle supercomputer maker and Intel Corp. this past March announced a $500 million contract to deliver a new supercomputer, called Aurora, to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in metro Chicago. One month later, Cray landed a competitive $600 million contract to develop for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee the fastest computer the company has ever built. Called the Frontier supercomputer, it will utilize central and graphics processing units from contract partner Advanced Micro Devices Inc and is slated for delivery in 2021.
The El Capitan and Frontier supercomputers are each expected to achieve 1.5 exaflop performance capability. A performance capability of 1 exaflop is literally a trillion times faster than a typical consumer laptop. It will make them the world’s most powerful computers. The Aurora system, slated for delivery to Argonne in 2021, also will offer exaflop-performance capability.
Earlier this year, Seattle-based Cray announced it was being purchased by tech powerhouse Hewlett Packard Enterprise for $35 per share in cash ― a deal valued at $1.3 billion that is slated to close early next year.
Cray employs some 55,000 people. Cray employs more than 1,300 people worldwide, including about 120 at its Seattle headquarters, which will remain the headquarters post-acquisition. The company also has engineering facilities in Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, Texas and California as well as a manufacturing facility in Wisconsin.