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March 20, 2013

Assembling Blue Waters

Nicole Hemsoth

As NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer approaches full service status, we thought it would be appropriate to see how the machine was built.

This video from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) takes viewers inside the hallowed hallways of Cray’s manufacturing center in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for a look at the primary components that make up a Cray G34 compute blade assembly for the XE6 computer system.

The Director of Manufacture Logistics Group at Cray, Steve Samse, shows off the compute blades that include Blue Waters’ processors, interconnect and memory: “the heart of what will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.”

In the year since this video was filmed, work on the system was completed and Blue Waters was installed at NCSA. The 11.6 petaflops (peak) supercomputer contains 237 XE cabinets, each with 24 blade assemblies, and 32 cabinets of the Cray XK6 supercomputer with NVIDIA Tesla GPU computing capability.

Currently available in “friendly-user” mode for NCSA-approved teams, Blue Waters provides sustained performance of 1 petaflop or more on a range of real-world science and engineering applications.