The Week in Review

By John E. West

August 6, 2009

Here is a collection of highlights, selected totally subjectively, from this week’s HPC news stream as reported at insideHPC.com and HPCwire.

10 words and a link

Bull reports first six months, posts profit

NAS Parallel Benchmark results comparing Amazon’s EC2 and NCSA’s supercomputer

UK university installs 74TF iDataPlex

Intel releases Threading Building Blocks update

Intel buys CilkArts, will incorporate Cilk++ technology

XtreemOS offers training event

Fighting fires with HPC

Energy efficiency improvements in HPC

HP flogging Tesla GPUs in scientific workstations

Cluster Resources changes its name and adds to its focus

AMD releases OpenCL development kit beta for x86 CPUs

NERSC awards contract for 1PF super to Cray

Cray posts profit in Q2

Cray reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, and I imagine that there’s corks a-popping at Cray’s headquarters. They’ve reported a quarterly profit for the first time since Q3’08.

Cray Inc. (NASDAQ: CRAY) today announced financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2009. Revenue for the quarter was $62.7 million compared to $46.7 million in the prior year period, an increase of 34 percent. The company reported net income for the quarter of $3.4 million or $0.10 per share compared to a net loss of ($6.4 million) or ($0.20) per share in the second quarter of 2008.

Total gross profit margin for the second quarter of 2009 was 45 percent compared to 33 percent in the second quarter of 2008. Product margin was 47 percent, driven by product mix and favorable costs on large system upgrades and contract closeouts. Service margin was 42 percent in the second quarter of 2009.

Cray has had strong financials lately, buying back all of its outstanding debt at a discount during the financial crisis, buying back underwater options from employees, and generally keeping its house in order. The news on the company’s year to date is also generally positive with revenue up considerably and net losses down considerably:

For the six-month period ended June 30, 2009, Cray reported total revenue of $137.2 million compared to $72.9 million in the prior year period, an 88% increase. For the first half of the year, total operating expenses were $45.4 million compared to $44.0 million in the prior year period. Net loss was ($1.5 million) or ($0.04) per share for the first half of 2009 compared to a net loss of ($18.4 million) or ($0.57) per share in the prior year period. The 2009 year-to-date net income results include $3.4 million of stock compensation and $1.7 million of non-cash items related to the new accounting for our convertible notes.

The company is cautiously optimistic about its potential to be profitable for the year:

Based on the above current revenue, margin and expense assumptions, a modest income from operations for 2009 is likely.

Although Cray is working hard to diversify the revenue base, its income is still strongly driven by acquisitions of high-end machines. It would only take schedule slips on a couple of key acquisitions — and customer slips are completely out of Cray’s control — to turn the year from “modest income” to net loss.

Oak Ridge plans upgrade for Jaguar to Istanbul and 2 petaflops

Here is news from Cray that Oak Ridge National Lab has signed a deal to upgrade the world’s second largest computer, the mammoth Jaguar system, by swapping out the current quadcore Opterons for the six-core version by the end of 2009, bringing the total peak capability of that machine to 2 PF and nearly a quarter of a million cores.

The contract to upgrade the Jaguar system will increase the number of the Cray XT5 supercomputer’s processing cores to more than 224,000. The upgrade is expected to be installed and accepted by the end of 2009.

“What makes this upgrade to Jaguar truly exciting for us is the realization that the scientists and engineers using Jaguar will now have a faster and more powerful tool on their hands for achieving important scientific breakthroughs,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “The Cray XT5 system at Oak Ridge remains the first and only supercomputer in the world to run real-world, scientific applications at over a sustained petaflops, and we are very proud of this groundbreaking achievement. When the upgrade is complete, this performance level will increase and the scientific community will benefit — that is what matters most to us.”

If this happens on schedule — and if Cray didn’t bend over backwards to get this business on terms that are disadvantageous to the business — it will likely play a big part in determining whether they will be profitable this year and meet their projections.

Intel stops shipping SSDs following discovery of data loss

EnterpriseStorageForum.com reported on Monday that Intel has stopped shipping its new solid state storage devices, which have been on the market for less than a month. The latest crop of flash-based SSDs have been the subject of a lot of discussion in HPC, but not too much implementation.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) has halted shipments of its new X25-M and X18-M solid state drives (SSDs) after discovering a problem that could cause data corruption. The new drives were the result of a joint venture with Micron Technology (NYSE: MU) and used a new 34 nanometer manufacturing process that was supposed to offer more storage density at a lower cost.

…Intel found that if a user sets up a BIOS password on the SSD, then disables or changes the password, the contents of the drive become corrupted and irretrievably lost.

Intel has a fix and is working to implement it, at which time it will presumably begin shipping again. Not a good start for this relatively new class of device (not SSDs, but flash-based SSDs), though it is heartening that this problem seems to be entirely implementation-dependent, not having anything to do with the flash-storage technology itself.

—–

John West is part of the team that summarizes the headlines in HPC news every day at insideHPC.com. You can contact him at john@insidehpc.com.

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