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Supercomputing Microsoft Hardware

Unholy Matrimony? Microsoft and Cray 358

Posted by timothy
from the sick-of-so-called-supercomputers-running-linux dept.
fetusbear writes with a ZDNet story that says "'Microsoft and Cray are set to unveil on September 16 the Cray CX1, a compact supercomputer running Windows HPC Server 2008. The pair is expected to tout the new offering as "the most affordable supercomputer Cray has ever offered," with pricing starting at $25,000.' Although this would be the lowest cost hardware ever offered by Cray, it would also be the most expensive desktop ever offered by Microsoft."
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Unholy Matrimony? Microsoft and Cray

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  • by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:48PM (#25026931) Homepage Journal

    I mean, come on, this thing's probably gotta play some pretty good games....

    Let's see Toms Hardware and Anandtech put one of these babies through their paces!

    My question is, how big does your Word document have to be for it to take a second to scroll from the top to the bottom of the document.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      I don't know, but somehow I suspect that they will find a way of filling the whole thing with cludgy programs which nobody wants. It'll probably end up being about as fast as a P2.

      When has MS ever seen extra capacity and said to themselves that those cycles belong to the customer?

      • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:21PM (#25027401) Homepage
        When has MS ever seen extra capacity and said to themselves that those cycles belong to the customer?

        Like the linux kernel developers are any better...every OS maker is greedy about increased CPU power. I first ran Linux in 1995 and it isn't that much faster now.
        • by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:24PM (#25027457) Homepage Journal

          Like the linux kernel developers are any better...every OS maker is greedy about increased CPU power. I first ran Linux in 1995 and it isn't that much faster now.

          Well, I guess if you want to go back to pine for mail, it might be pretty quick.

        • by j-pimp (177072) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .1891yppiz.> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:29PM (#25027535) Homepage Journal

          When has MS ever seen extra capacity and said to themselves that those cycles belong to the customer? Like the linux kernel developers are any better...every OS maker is greedy about increased CPU power. I first ran Linux in 1995 and it isn't that much faster now.

          I just use WindowMaker as my desktop and turn off all the services I don't want. Its quite fast for me.

        • by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:34PM (#25027593) Homepage

          Like the linux kernel developers are any better...every OS maker is greedy about increased CPU power. I first ran Linux in 1995 and it isn't that much faster now.

          It would be if you'd upgraded your machine.

          • by jannesha (441851) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @02:46PM (#25028729)

            It would be if you'd upgraded your machine.

            ...what?! But that would reset his uptime!

        • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:58PM (#25027981)

          Like the linux kernel developers are any better...every OS maker is greedy about increased CPU power. I first ran Linux in 1995 and it isn't that much faster now.

          Given that the Linux kernel is used in embedded systems with a tiny fraction of your desktop's RAM and CPU power, I'd call it pretty darned safe that the kernel isn't your problem. It's gotten somewhat bigger -- which is why 2.2 and 2.4 kernels are still in use in smaller environments -- but on any system with over 100MB of RAM, you're not going to notice.

          Now, if you want to complain about application developers taking advantage of hardware resources (inclusive of the GNOME and KDE folks, browser developers, and the like), feel free.

        • by skidv (656766) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @05:21PM (#25031155) Homepage Journal

          I think the new kernels are faster.

          My Pentium 600 running slackware with a 2.4.10 kernel is a lot slower than my Pentium 600 running debian 4.0r2 with a 2.6.x kernel.

          • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:05PM (#25032963) Homepage

            More importantly, newer kernels *feel* faster. In particular the kernel preemption makes an enormous difference as far as perceived speed goes (for a desktop user).

            When I upgraded from 2.4.24 to one of the early 2.6 releases I was astounded at how much faster things felt. On a very modest laptop (1.3 GHz Pentium-M, 512M RAM, 30G 5400 RPM hard drive) from a fresh boot I fired up OpenOffice, Konqueror, Eclipse, Firefox (might have still been Mozilla then, I forget) all at the same time, and the desktop was still liquid smooth and completely responsive. Needless to say, a similar task on 2.4 felt much slower, as actually getting the K menu to open again so I could select another program to start out of it took longer.

            Newer kernels are actually faster in a lot of cases too, particularly with scalability, but lots of other optimizations have been done as well, as many kernel developers keep a very close eye on performance. Also, GCC has gotten better over time, and likely optimizes the kernel quite a bit better now than it could several years ago.

      • by mikael (484) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @06:16PM (#25031759)

        There was a Microsoft podcast, where some Microsoft programmers were being asked about the future of the API they developed and one thought was that every DCOM/COM/kernel object would have its own lock, as the attitude was "Hey, you will have 80 cores on every machine, you will be able to afford it!".

    • by zerocool^ (112121) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:47PM (#25027793) Homepage Journal

      I hear it'll play Crysis on Medium.

  • by Serenissima (1210562) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:49PM (#25026935)
    Man, now even with buying a supercomputer we have to pay the Microsoft tax. We should sign a petition for them to sell the computers with Linux on them. Then we can drop the price to $24,900. That's WAY better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:49PM (#25026939)

    n/t

  • hardly news (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:49PM (#25026943) Homepage Journal

    Oh please. This really isn't "news for nerds". Maybe news for fools, but all of us here have known for months that this would be coming. I mean, what else can you imagine that would run Vista smoothly?

  • Finally (Score:4, Funny)

    by Wireless Joe (604314) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:49PM (#25026947) Homepage
    I'll be able to run Crysis and Prince of Persia at the same time.
    • Doubtful... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by C10H14N2 (640033) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:19PM (#25027375)

      If they're running their shopping cart on it. I just tried to configure one and got the following error. I mean, honestly, what has happened to Cray if they're releasing applications that don't handle simple CRUD exceptions? This would earn an F in high school level computer science and released into production should be enough to tank their stock:

      Server Error in '/configurator' Application.

      An item with the same key has already been added.
      Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

      Stack Trace:

      [ArgumentException: An item with the same key has already been added.] ...

      Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:2.0.50727.42; ASP.NET Version:2.0.50727.42

  • Antivirus (Score:5, Funny)

    by tsa (15680) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:50PM (#25026961) Homepage

    I bet Symantec Antivirus can get it on its knees.

  • This thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kidde_valind (1060754) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:51PM (#25026979)
    ...is not actually a "desktop". It's not even "a" computer. It's a cluster, and Cray could definately do better than this. Especially considering Unisys has built computers (no, not clusters) with a lot of processors a long time, many of them Windows Capable. So... Cray builds a cluster, Microsoft gets some free ad space for HPC Server. Hooray!
    • Re:This thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fishbulb (32296) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:25PM (#25027479)

      Yes Cray could do better, but the Cray of today is not the Cray of yesterday.

      It's as close to 'in-name-only' as you can get, considering the number of times it's been bought off and fleeced.

      • by timbck2 (233967)

        Yes, Cray could do better...

        Service Unavailable

        HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Are you trying to imply that Cray the company is "in name only?" Because that's not at all the case.

        It's true that Cray was a shadow of its former self after Tera bought it, but many of the Tera executives have left, and some of what Cray Research used to be has re-emerged.

        Now, the CX1 really is Cray in name only. Don't make the mistake of thinking of Cray as a maker of itty bitty clusters. Oak Ridge has a >30,000 core Cray XT4 [nccs.gov], NERSC has an almost 20,000-core XT4 [nersc.gov], and of course Red Storm [sandia.gov] has over 26,000

  • Desktop? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:54PM (#25027009)

    From the article:

    If space is a problem, not to worry, itâ(TM)s compact enough to fit in a broom closet.

    From the summary:

    ... it would also be the most expensive desktop ever offered by Microsoft.

    I know, the summary was an attempt to bash MS.

    • It's technically true, as MS has never offered a desktop. On the flipside, I was at MS in 1998, and we bought a $50k server for our workgroup to to continuous builds, so 25k isn't that huge.
    • by arth1 (260657)

      It's also highly inaccurate by claiming this "most expensive desktop", but not only because it isn't a desktop.
      Try looking up the pricing for a Itanium-based HP Superdome with Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. I believe a 32-way system went for around $700,000, while a 128-way system cost several million. $25,000 is pocket change compared to those.

      Also, didn't some of the SGI NT boxes sell for around that price ($25k)? Those were true workstations, though, and not servers.

  • BSOD (Score:3, Funny)

    by alta (1263) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:55PM (#25027025) Homepage Journal

    This thing is able to generate the BSOD faster than anything you've EVER imagined.

  • Non-useless link (Score:5, Informative)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:58PM (#25027063)

    instead of bloggy blather, you can go to the source [cray.com].

  • If Cray would have spent the amount of time and money equivalent to what was put into this deal at their end by recoding FreeBSD to their needs, they could have rebranded the result as their own OS/hardware package a la Apple without all of the bugs and security holes that MS has brought to the table.

    (And I'm a Linux guy! How hard is this stuff to figure out?!)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bmajik (96670)

      Cray have and have had their own custom UNIX distribution since before slashdot existed.

      You can already get Linux on CRAY hardware -- the SGI Altix series. I haven't kept up on the offerings, but I beleive there are other *nix based offerings as well.

      The value proposition of something like this is that people who are better at science than programming (you know, most super computer users) get something that makes them more productive than they'd otherwise be. The operating system on a super computer is al

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Dan9999 (679463)
      well you know you can get red hat for it. and if you look up their other offerings, they do have real supercomputers with a modified BSD.
  • Poor Seymour (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:00PM (#25027101) Homepage Journal

    The man is spinning in his grave!
    Just let Cray pass into history.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by haeger (85819)

      I hear google has accuired his corpe and put coils around it. They plan to use it to power all their new data-havens.

      .haeger

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816)

      The current "Cray" is actually a new company that used to be called Tera Computer. Their connection with the original Cray is that in 2000 they bought some SGI assets that originated with Cray Research. One suspects that the only asset they really wanted was the Cray name. Ironically, when SGI owned Cray, they tried to phase out the Cray brand — with disastrous results.

      Unlike the original Cray Research, Tera/Cray has always been moderately profitable. So this is not a dying gasp by any means.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613)

      Cray is pretty much the Monster Cable of the supercomputing world these days, right? A company that offers little to no tangible benefit over its competitors, but gets by on brand recognition alone?

      I know that Cray was at the top of the world twenty years ago, because that's what we were taught in 7th grade Computers class, where we learned how to program in BASIC on a room full of TRS-80s; that the four types of computer are microcomputer, minicomputer, mainframe, and supercomputer; and that other popular

  • by PMuse (320639)

    In other news, you can now buy a Pyrex(TM) cake pan [amazon.com] and Pyrex spatula [amazon.com] to go with your M$ Cray.

  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:05PM (#25027173) Homepage

    Everyone else has probably done the usual "how fast can a Cray show a BSoD?" gags, so all I was left with was:

    • "It looks like you're trying to solve complex multidimensional calculus to model atomic explosions! Need some help?"
    • "Hi, I'm a Mac." "And I'm a PC. And here's my 30-foot-tall friend, Big Cray, The Destroyer of Worlds. Kill, Big Cray, Kill!"
  • I was joking when I floated the idea of the Large Hardon Collider running Vista [today.com].

    (I'd think that would lead to an immediate loss of Large Hardon myself.)

  • won't be able to run crysis
  • did linux stop working on cray?
  • The Apple Lisa would cost about $20,000 in today's money. The two aren't related, but the jokes about a $25,000 desktop made me think of when PCs really did cost a whole lot. Just food for thought =)

    (And yes, I am perfectly aware that the Lisa was a failure)

  • StuporComputer?

  • These are just standard issue Intel PC's wired up in a cluster like every other modern supercomputer & sold under the Cray brand.

  • Resistance is futile - you will be assimilated! A final nail in the coffin for traditional Unix. Now, Microsoft scales from tiny devices running in watches, to super-computers! Even changes to Windows 2008 servers allow administrators to run the OS on routers (without a UI, even solitare is removed). The arguments for Unix in any data center are almost gone.
  • Windows HPC Server 2008 is dying! [zdnet.com]

  • Cray is dead. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swordgeek (112599) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:39PM (#25027669) Journal

    Cray is just barely more relevant to modern HPC than Silicon Graphics. Whether they're making a PC that runs Linux or a PC that runs Windows, it's still a PC. Yes, a massively parallel one, but it's a PC. The XMT series is the only really innovative thing that distinguishes Cray from the next guy down the street.

    Computing has come to the point where commodity hardware can be almost endlessly strung together with commodity equipment to achieve the computing level necessary for most purposes. Furthermore, in the rare cases where it's necessary to go beyond this level, the cost of building a custom machine that outperforms commodity equipment is roughly one to two orders of magnitude more. Bottom line, it's just not cost effective for almost anyone to buy the cool high-end non-commodity gear anymore.

    Which means that Cray will be reduced to a company that makes interconnects, like SGI is. Neat engineering, but the interconnects are now becoming commodity gear as well, which means that these companies won't be able to make enough profit to keep engineering as the focus of the company. They'll be forced into being a support/service company of their commodity hardware sold at a meagre 5% profit margin.

    The one escape is gone as well--pushing Linux and Windows and the primary (or only) OSes means that they won't have anything special to offer. If, for instance, SGI had aggressively driven Irix, things might have been different for them.

    The last front for development in current computing is in the labs of Intel and AMD, working on commodity gear. The days of boutique computing are dying.

  • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:43PM (#25027711)

    You can have up to 8 "blades". each blade is a dual socket Xeon board with it's own RAm and graphics. The blades are in effect dual CPU Xeon PCs. The blades are connected to an high performance Ethernet switch which ties them together in a cluster.

    So if you call eight PCs connected to a network a "supper computer" then this is it.

  • Is there a better way to make your corporate slump more obvious? Seriously, aligning yourself with Cray is like putting an "I am obsolete" sticker on your lapel.

    First we get Seinfeld, then Cray...I think Microsoft would like us all to go back to the '90s and play nicely together again.
  • Vista jokes aside, this is an HPC/Server system, not a desktop. And as such, it's a long way from being the most expensive Windows system you can buy. A fully loaded Sun Fire X4600 M2 [sun.com] can run you more than $35K.

  • by idiot900 (166952) * on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @02:00PM (#25027999)

    As someone who does science HPC for a living, I am confused. Who actually wants Windows for HPC? What value does it provide that Linux or UNIX doesn't? I've never heard of a single use case where Linux or some UNIX wasn't better by miles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scareduck (177470)
      Microsoft, for one. As of three years ago, 60% of supercomputers were running Linux [forbes.com] and I can only imagine that figure has gotten higher subsequently. Nobody trusts Microsoft for high-end applications, and what's more, it's expensive, too. Microsoft needs a reference application to show its customers that they aren't being left in the penguin's dust.
  • by Arcturax (454188) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:19PM (#25029249)

    I'm sure I could configure a Mac Pro that costs more than that, and it will run Windows too.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:00PM (#25029959)

    Serving up one of the most crappy and broken corporate websites I've seen lately, Cray bedazzles me. They can't be serious, can they? Running a high throughput, custom piece of hardware on Windows as the prime OS? ... Unbelievable.

    What Oomph does this thing have anyway? 16 Quad-Core Xeons. 64GB per node. Doesn't sound like that much of a a big deal to me. What corners could Cray have cut with the system archiecture itself to justify the hype? Won't a smalish blade-box or something simular from Sun or IBM wipe the floor with this thing? ... Just wondering.

    Anybody with deeper insights on this?

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