Microsoft, Cray Launch 'personal' Supercomputer for $25K

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Microsoft and Cray on Tuesday unveiled CX1, a compact, competitively priced supercomputer that the companies said they developed jointly for customers who perform tasks such as simulations that require compute-intensive environments.

Cray's CX1 computer runs Windows HPC (High Performance Computing) Server 2008 and is available for customers to order now for delivery in October at a starting price of US$25,000, said Kyril Faenov, general manager of Microsoft's HPC team.

Faenov said that people in markets such as financial services, aerospace, automotive, academic and life sciences who must do simulations and modeling that require a certain level of computing performance have two options, neither of which is easy. "You can go to a corporate environment and try to obtain a large-scale system, or purchase a system and assemble it [yourself]," he said.

CX1 gives people an all-in-one package of hardware and software that people can install easily at their desks into a regular wall socket, Faenov said. "Here you have supercomputing experience as if it was a personal computer," he said.

Microsoft plans to formally launch Windows HPC Server 2008 on Monday. The company has positioned the OS against Linux and Unix as a way for people to get high-performance computing power at a relatively low cost. Microsoft traditionally has not been a major player in this market.

Microsoft's relationship with Cray is not exclusive, and Microsoft plans to unveil partnerships with other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for computers similar to CX1, Faenov said. Some of those likely will come at the launch of Windows HPC next week, he said, though he declined to give specifics.

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