SAN JOSE, Calif. Cray Inc. and IBM Corp. will split nearly half a billion dollars as part of a government contract announced Tuesday (Nov. 21) to fund development of petaflop-class supercomputers before the end of 2010. A third competitor, Sun Microsystems, was dropped from the program that aims to foster work on computers that are more powerful and easier to program than any in current operation.
The two companies were selected for phase III of the High Productivity Computing Systems program (HPCS) managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa). Cray will receive $250 million and IBM $244 million to develop prototype systems by 2010.
The prototypes will have to show a path to computing one quadrillion floating point operations per second and improve application development time ten-fold compared to 2002 when the HPCS program began. The two winners will also have to show Darpa officials a business plan for how they will develop systems based on the prototypes for use both by government and commercial users.
"High productivity computing contributes substantially to the design and development of advanced vehicles and weapons, planning and execution of operational military scenarios, the intelligence problems of crypto-analysis and image processing, the maintenance of our nuclear stockpile, and is a key enabler for science and discovery in security-related fields," said William Harrod, manager of the Darpa program in a statement.
It's unclear what impact the loss may have for Sun which has struggled since 2000 to be profitable and competed aggressively for the contract. Specifically, Sun proposed a novel capacitive coupling chip-to-chip interconnect called Proximity as well as a high-end parallel programming language called Fortress which it tried to make into an ad hoc standard.
IBM has been less forthcoming about the details of its proposal. However, the company did disclose it is based on a Power7 microprocessor, its AIX operating system and General Parallel File System.