Cray, Intel sign pact to build petascale computers

Research effort will focus on multi-core processors for computers going to DARPA

Intel and Cray have launched a joint effort to develop new multi-core technologies as part of an effort to build multi-petascale systems.

The chip manufacturer signed a multi-year agreement with Cray, a supercomputer manufacturer. The two noted that under the agreement, they hope to develop a range of technologies and high-performance computers over the next several years.

"We aren't disclosing specific technologies or products today," said Richard Dracott, general manager of Intel's High Performance Computing Organization. The company did say in a written release, though, that they will be working on multi-core technologies and advanced interconnects.

Dracott did note that Cray "has indicated" that it's upcoming Cascade project will include Intel-based computers. The Cascade program, sponsored by the U.S. government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was launched to build relatively inexpensive supercomputers by 2011.

"The two companies are interested in seeing the word's fastest-multi petascale class systems brought to market through a combination of Cray's systems expertise and Intel's processor leadership," said Dracott. "The high end of supercomputing has an insatiable demand for more performance. We believe that the fruits of this collaboration will be used to help solve some of the world's most important humanitarian, medical, scientific and engineering challenges."

A petaflop is a thousand trillion calculations per second. Having a supercomputer break the petaflop barrier is akin to breaking the four-minute mile.

Erich Strohmaier, a computer scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, noted that more than 70% of the supercomputers currently on its Top 500 list of most powerful systems are based on Intel processors. He added that the total is Intel's largest-ever share of the list.

The Top 500 list is updated twice a year. The next version of the ranking will be released at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC'08) in Dresden, Germany, which is being held June 17 to 20.

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