Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
PNNL News Central

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Acquires Cray XMT Supercomputer

New data-analysis system to speed research in science, energy, national security

News Release

September 19, 2007 Share This!

  • The Center for Adaptive Supercomputing Software will take advantage of the multithreaded processors in the Cray XMT. Image courtesy of Cray, Inc.

1 of 1

RICHLAND, Wash. — Global supercomputer leader Cray Inc. (Nasdaq GM: CRAY) announced that the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has taken delivery of the first-of-its-kind Cray XMT supercomputer designed for data intensive computing research.

The Cray XMT system has a unique “massively multithreaded” architecture and large global memory that is configured for applications, such as data discovery, bioinformatics and power grid analysis, that require access to terabytes of data arranged in an unpredictable manner.

The random and unpredictable data access required by these efforts has meant that they typically do not run well on conventional computer systems, where performance is determined mainly by the speed at which the memory can deliver information to the microprocessor. In many large-scale applications of this kind, the processor is idle 80 to 90 percent of the time while waiting for data from memory.

The Cray XMT system is built to overcome memory bottlenecks with each processor able to handle 128 independent threads. The entire system is scalable to hundreds of thousands of threads – portions of a program that can run independently of and concurrently with other portions of the program – in shared memory.

“The result is a system that is ideal for data-intensive computing and other applications with high levels of irregular memory access,” said PNNL scientist Jarek Nieplocha.

“The Cray XMT system will offer PNNL the potential to substantially accelerate data analysis and predictive analytics for many of our clients’ complex challenges in energy, national security and fundamental science,” said Moe Khaleel, director of computational sciences and mathematics at PNNL. “I expect the new system will provide researchers with levels of performance for data analysis that they have never achieved before.”

For example, PNNL researchers and colleagues at Cray have obtained promising results in testing the massively multithreaded architecture on several PNNL-developed applications, including one that constantly monitors the state of the power grid. “Electrical power grid modeling and analysis are critical to DOE,” Nieplocha said, noting that “speedups achieved on a developmental system at Cray’s lab in Seattle were better than ever reported for this application.”

“Cray has traditionally led the supercomputer market with machines designed for simulation; with the Cray XMT, we are entering into the data analysis and network discovery market,” said Jan Silverman, Cray senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development. “We're excited that PNNL’s innovative researchers will be developing software to take advantage of the unique features of the Cray XMT to solve a broad range of important problems that could not have been efficiently solved before.”

The system also will be available to researchers at Washington State University (WSU), increasing opportunities for collaborative science and discovery. “This system represents a fundamentally new computer architecture for solving grand challenge problems,” said Behrooz Shirazi, director of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at WSU. “The Cray XMT will be a catalyst for fostering and expanding cooperation among the researchers at PNNL, Cray and WSU.”

The PNNL Cray XMT supercomputer is an early-release system installed as part of a collaboration between Cray and PNNL to explore a variety of new application areas on this innovative system. It is scheduled to be upgraded to a production-level system in 2008. The supercomputer is installed in the Applied Process Engineering Laboratory, a user facility located near PNNL’s campus in Richland, Wash.

About the Cray XMT Platform
For large data-driven problems that today exist in unrelated and diverse data sets, massively multithreaded processing offers the potential for breakthrough performance increases. Each processor in the multithreaded Cray XMT system can handle up to 128 concurrent threads. The system is designed to scale up to more than 8,000 processors, yielding more than one million concurrent threads that can operate on as much as 128 terabytes (128 trillion bytes) of shared physical memory. For more information about the Cray XMT product and partner program, go to the Cray website.

Safe Harbor Statement
This press release contains forward-looking statements. There are certain factors that could cause Cray’s execution plans to differ materially from those anticipated by the statements above. Among these are the technical challenges of developing high-performance computing systems, including potential delays in hardware and software development projects; Cray’s ability to scale the system to the targeted level of performance; timing and level of government support for supercomputer purchases and research and development activities; reliance on third-party suppliers, including delays in availability of qualified parts from suppliers; timing of and successful porting of application programs to new computing systems; and successful passing of acceptance tests. For a discussion of these and other risks, see “Risk Factors” in Cray’s most recent Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q filed with the SEC.

Cray is a registered trademark, and Cray XMT is a trademark, of Cray Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Tags: Computational Science, Supercomputer

As a global leader in supercomputing, Cray provides highly advanced supercomputers and world-class services and support to government, industry and academia. Cray technology enables scientists and engineers to achieve remarkable breakthroughs by accelerating performance, improving efficiency and extending the capabilities of their most demanding applications. Cray’s Adaptive Supercomputing vision will result in innovative next-generation products that integrate diverse processing technologies into a unified architecture, allowing customers to surpass today's limitations and meeting the market's continued demand for realized performance. Visit Cray for more information.

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

News Center


Additional Resources