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DE’s Check it Out: Cray’s CX1 supercomputer

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

You know the press coverage: “HPC (high-performance computing) is where it’s at for complex applications like CAD, CAM, CFD, FEA, data modeling, and those visualizations and simulations inherent in energy, oil and gas, life sciences, and manufacturing.” But buried in the wowie-zowie of most HPC press coverage is the simple fact that most engineering disciplines did not produce a lot engineers who are computer and IT savvy enough to be able to leap into programming in parallel, distributing algorithms, and managing an HPC cluster in a cost-effective single bound. Then there’s that whole data center thing. It’s great if you have the dollars and the resources to support such an infrastructure.

Cray’s CX1 supercomputer is both designed and optimized for HPC and designed and optimized for engineering outfits where HPC has been an unaffordable option.

The first thing to know about the Cray CX1 supercomputer is that it is a complete high-performance product — not a bunch of components that give an alternative meaning to the word cluster in HPC cluster. That’s not to say you don’t configure it with the components you want. The Cray CX1 is fully customizable and expandable — up to 16 dual or quad core processors, for example. It’s available in deskside or rack-mount form factors and it runs off standard office power. But the real thing here is that the Cray CX1 can be operated and maintained by individuals or departments.

Part of how it achieves this is that the Xeon processor-based Cray CX1 supercomputer is certified Intel Cluster Ready system. For DE readers, this means that you get the ability to run applications like ANSYS, RADIOSS, STAR-CD, Nastran, Abaqus, and SC/Tetra out of the box. But the Cray CX1 also comes with an integrated solution that provides a simplified operating environment (pre-installed Windows HPC Server or Rocks+ Linux) and system management software. The latter is key: It simplifies job submission as well as status and progress monitoring. In short, you don’t need high-end programming chops or a large IT staff to manage the Cray CX1. It’s more like personal computing than what we’ve come to expect from HPC.

The second thing to know about the Cray CX1 is that it’s affordable HPC. Cray is offering some special pricing right now on units that start at less than $24,000. This is a price point that can get most engineering outfits into HPC. The days maybe even weeks recouped in project timelines — not to mention the work you either farm out or pass up because you do not have the horsepower to handle it — make this an expense that can bring you to the next level.

HPC can make all the difference in engineering, but putting such power at the engineer’s desk has been a different story entirely. Check out this 2.5-minute video to get the idea how Cray can make HPC more available to engineers. Fair warning: the video runs in a loop. When done watching, poke around the Cray CX1 home page to learn more. It’s worth it.

Thanks, Pal — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering Magazine

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Desktop Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.
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