The University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications has finalized a contract with Cray Inc. ?to provide the supercomputer for the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters project.

This new Cray supercomputer will support significant research advances in a broad range of science and engineering domains, meeting the needs of the most compute-intensive, memory-intensive, and data-intensive applications. Blue Waters is expected to deliver sustained performance, on average, of more than one petaflops on a set of benchmark codes that represent those applications and domains.

More than 25 teams, from a dozen research fields, are preparing to achieve breakthroughs by using Blue Waters to model a broad range of phenomena, including: nanotechnology’s minute molecular assemblies, the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang, the damage caused by earthquakes and the formation of tornadoes, the mechanism by which viruses enter cells, and improved climate change predictions.

Blue Waters will be composed of more than 235 Cray XE6 cabinets based on the recently announced AMD Opteron 6200 Series processor (formerly code-named “Interlagos”) and more than 30 cabinets of a future version of the recently announced Cray XK6 supercomputer with NVIDIA Tesla GPU computing capability incorporated into a single, powerful hybrid supercomputer. These Cray XK nodes will further increase the measured sustained performance on real science problems.

We are extremely pleased to have forged a strong partnership with Cray. This configuration will be the most balanced, powerful, and useable system available when it comes online. By incorporating a future version of the XK6 system, Blue Waters will also provide a bridge to the future of scientific computing.” – NCSA Director Thom Dunning.

The project is an incredible undertaking, requiring commitment and dedication not only from NSF, NCSA, the University of Illinois, and the science teams, but also from our computing systems partner — Cray. This strong partnership further establishes our place at the forefront of high-performance computing.” – Michael Hogan President University of Illinois

The Blue Waters team has the technological capability and the commitment to make this important resource a reality — a resource that will help scientists and engineers solve their most challenging problems.” – Phyllis Wise chancellor University of Illinois

The Cray Blue Waters system will employ:

  • Cray’s scalable Gemini high-performance interconnect, providing a major improvement in message throughput and latency.
  • 16-core AMD (NYSE: AMD) Opteron 6200 Series processors, selected by the editors of HPCwire as one of the top five new technologies to watch in 2011.
  • Cray XK6 blades with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, based on NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) next-generation ‘Kepler’ architecture, which is expected to more than double the performance of the Fermi GPU on double-precision arithmetic.
  • 1.5 petabytes of total memory (or four gigabytes per AMD Opteron 6200 Series processor core).
  • Cray’s scalable Linux Environment (CLE) and HPC-focused GPU/CPU Programming Environment (CPE).
  • A Cray integrated Lustre parallel file system with more than one terabyte-per-second of aggregate storage bandwidth and more than 25 petabytes of user accessible storage.
  • Up to 500 petabytes of near-line storage and up to 300 gigabits per second of wide area connections.

We are extremely proud to have been selected to deliver the Blue Waters system through this important partnership with the NSF, the University of Illinois, and NCSA.” Peter Ungaro president CEO Cray

Consisting of products and services, the multi-year and multi-phase contract is valued at more than $ 188 million. Cray will begin installing hardware in the University of Illinois’ National Petascale Computing Facility soon, with an early science system expected to be available in early 2012. Blue Waters is expected to be fully deployed by the end of 2012.

As supercomputers continue to grow in scale and complexity, it becomes more challenging to effectively harness their power. Since the Blue Waters project was launched in 2008, NCSA has helped researchers prepare their codes for the massive scale of this and other extreme-scale systems. NCSA also initiated a broad range of R&D projects designed to improve the performance of the existing HPC software stack and facilitate the development and use of applications on Blue Waters and other petascale computers.

The Blue Waters project is now prepared to mount a major, community-based effort to move the state of computational science into the petascale era. The center will work with the computational and computer science and engineering communities to help them take full advantage of Blue Waters as well as future supercomputers.