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February 25, 2010

Cray Corrals Big Defense Deal

Michael Feldman

A week after closing the books on 2009, Cray is busy building its 2010 business. On Wednesday, the company announced it had nabbed a $45 million contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD) to deliver three Baker-class supercomputers to the agency.

The three new supers are being procured for the DoD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), and specifically for the US Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks, Alaska; and the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. According to Cray’s press release, the contract is the largest HPCMP award to a single vendor.

The supercomputers will be used to support R&D for new materials, fuels, armor and weapons systems — what the US military sometimes euphemistically refers to as “product development.” The systems will also be put to use in military planning, humanitarian missions and long-term weather forecasting.

The $45 million multi-year contract includes services as well as hardware. From that we can surmise that the three machines are almost certainly sub-petaflop-level supers (unless Cray gave them a really, really sweet deal). Nonetheless, this represents a significant win for the company, and gives Cray’s upcoming Baker system a nice endorsement by an organization that has had plenty of experience with the supercomputing maker.

Four of the six DoD supercomputing centers already own Cray gear, including the US Army Research Laboratory (two XT5s), the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (one XT5), the Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center (one Cray XT4), and the Navy’s DoD Supercomputing Resource Center (one XT5). By adding the Air Force Research Lab in the new contract, that puts Cray machinery in five of the six DoD centers.

Whether Ungaro and company are able to book any of the $45 million in 2010 will depend upon getting the Baker systems launched on time. As we reported last week, the Bakers are due out in the third quarter of this year. According to Cray, the development of the next-generation XT system is currently on schedule.