Darpa Awards Could Speed Supercomputers

Cray, IBM, and Sun try to restore U.S. lead in high-performance computing

Aaron Ricadela, Contributor

July 11, 2003

1 Min Read

Cray, IBM, and Sun Microsystems last week received more than $146 million in Defense Department funding to develop a new generation of supercomputers that could boost performance and ease costs for government agencies and businesses by the end of the decade.

The awards, part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's High Productivity Computing Systems program, follow roughly $15 million in funding last year and narrow to three the number of companies competing to build a generation of systems that can restore the United States' lead in high-performance computing for national security and industrial applications. Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics Inc. submitted designs during a first round of research and development, but didn't make the cut.

Darpa has been pushing systems vendors to build supercomputers that can sustain more of their top performance over time, are easier to program, and can provide a bridge between today's massively parallel supercomputers and the promise of quantum computing. The effort could yield large systems that are easier to program on a tight schedule, says Scott Studham, technical group lead at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a subcontractor for HP's proposal. "We're really looking forward to having access" to the systems.

IBM received $53.3 million to develop its Percs project (productive, easy-to-use, reliable computing systems), which includes new chip, operating system, and compiler technologies. Darpa gave Sun $49.7 million to work on a project that combines a simplified architecture and programming tools to increase user productivity, accuracy, and security. Cray, through its New Technology Endeavors subsidiary, got $43.1 million to develop Cascade, a supercomputer architecture.

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