Totally Cray: Supercomputing as a Service

Supercomputers are undeniably cool. For one, they use the prefix super, which automatically trigger a juvenile sense of wonderment. Think of things that use super:

  • Super Man: Undeniably cool spit curl, plus had a wicked mullet in the 90s.
  • Superconductor: A quantum mechanical phenomenon that results in zero electrical resistance, plus it requires really low temperatures. Double cool.
  • Supercuts: An affordable haircut and I can check in before I get there? You know it, cool.

But previously establish coolness of supercomputers aside, for all their amazing capabilities, they’re often unavailable to organizations that could benefit from them. Venerable supercomputer titan Cray is trying to do something about that, partnering with Markley to bring Supercomputing-as-a-Service to the masses. And by masses, I mean well funded organizations  specializing in life sciences.

Markley will host the offering, with Cray providing the backend grunt via their Urika-GX platform, specifically targeting the burgeoning life sciences markets in Markley’s backyard of Boston, Massachusetts. This is assuredly just a first step, but a significant one for an industry always in need of high end computation. Cray and Markley are already working on bringing the formers full range of products to a service model.

For the foreseeable future, this will remain a pretty exclusive service offering. It’s not like this will turn into a virtual private supercomputer that you can try out for a few dollars a month. But compared to Cray’s previous business model, this should massively increase their potential customers. More importantly, this should expose a new generation of developers to their massively parallel compute capabilities, which should create a positive feedback loop to drive even more business to them over time.

Once Cray opens up their offering to more general purpose infrastructure, this could have major impact across a wide range of verticals, assuming they can provide adequate scale. Get ready to see the acronym SCaaS, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of it going forward.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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