Cray’s XC30-AC: A Steal At Just $500,000

A Cray XC30 compute module.

For businesses wanting the power of a Cray supercomputer at a bargain price, the company is now offering the Cray XC30-AC, a half-million-dollar machine that relies on air-cooling to help lower costs.

Cray has positioned the new, cheaper XC30-AC as a “departmental” solution for the world’s largest 100 companies. Naturally, the lower price tag is also designed to bring new sets of customers into the Cray fold, including academia, defense and the earth sciences.

“Cray has a history of leveraging the supercomputing technologies featured in their high-end systems, and economically repackaging those same technologies to offer solutions to fit the needs of HPC users with smaller budgets,” Earl Joseph, IDC’s HPC analyst, wrote in a statement. “Simulation is no longer bound by the high-end data center, and Cray’s new XC30-AC system continues the company’s tradition of creating purpose-built systems that appeal to new customers in expanding segments of the supercomputing market.”

The Cray XC30-AC supercomputer leverages the same compute node, compute blade and daughter card (PDC) architecture as the Cray XC30. Each system blade contains four compute nodes of two processors each. According to the product brief (PDF), the system relies on Intel Xeon E5-2600 series processors with between 32 and 128 GB per node. Up to 1,024 cores per cabinet can be installed, generating a per-cabinet performance of 22 TFLOPS. Unlike Cray’s more powerful CS300 supercomputer, there are no additional coprocessor options such as the Xeon Phi.

The XC30-AC’s primary differentiator is the air-cooling system. While the existing Cray XC30 supercomputer uses a transverse air-flow liquid-cooled architecture, the Cray XC30-AC air-cooled family provides slightly smaller and less dense supercomputing cabinets that Cray says eliminates the requirement for liquid coolants or extra blower cabinets. However, the XC30-AC also comes with an optional active or passive rear-door heat exchanger, providing additional cooling if needed. Airflow is 3,000 cfm, front to back. (Cray also offers an air-cooled version of its CS300, the CS300-AC (PDF).)

In addition, the compute cabinets (standard 42U/19” rack cabinet) are physically smaller than the XC30, and include a low-power (480V or 208V) option.


Image: Cray