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Cray signs $250M deal to develop supercomputer

Chippewa Falls, Wis. - Cray Inc., the Seattle-based supercomputer maker with a primary engineering and development center here, has been awarded a $250 million agreement from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop what the company calls a “revolutionary” new supercomputer.

However, the agreement's impact on Cray's Chippewa Falls operation remains unclear.

The agreement, which extends Cray's part in DARPA's “High Productivity Computing Systems” project, is focused on producing a supercomputer that will use hybrid computing. According to Cray, this approach will integrate a range of processing technologies into a single scalable platform "capable of scaling to unprecedented levels of sustained performance on real applications.”

Under the program, code-named “Cascade,” Cray will develop a new hybrid system architecture that combines multiple processor technologies, a new high-performance network, and an adaptive software layer into a single integrated system.

Over the course of the four year contract, Cray will incorporate elements of the Cascade program into commercially available products, including a supercomputer code-named "Baker" that will be delivered to the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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William Harrod, DARPA program manager, said such high productivity computing contributes to the design and development of advanced vehicles and weapons and the planning and execution of military operations. He also characterized it as an enabler for science and discovery in security-related fields.

Super sizing

The milestone-based contract will pay for research and development staffing increases at Cray and sustain an ongoing partnership with Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. for hardware development.

“We definitely will be looking for key individuals in R&D,” said Peter Ungaro, Cray's president and CEO. “We will be staffing up at Cray and we will be leveraging our partners.”

Company spokesman Steve Conway said it's too early to evaluate the agreement's impact on the company's Chippewa Falls location. “It’s just too soon to say,” Conway said. “Clearly, Cray will have to look for more people, but we really wouldn’t know how many at this point.”

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