Cray recognizes that the computing world had evolved since Seymour Cray launched the company back in the early 1970s. While the computers they are creating remain technology performance powerhouses, they are competing in an entirely different landscape that includes cloud computing where companies can get as many computing resources as they need and pay by the sip (or the gulp in the case of Cray-style processing).
To battle that competition, the Urkia-GX comes stacked with a choice of 16/32/48 2-socket Intel® Xeon® v4 (Broadwell) processor nodes, which translates into up to 1,728 cores per system along with up to 22 TB DRAM. Storage options include 35 TB PCIe solid state drives and 192 TB spinning hard drives for local storage.
While Cray has always run scream machines, one of the differentiators with this offering is that it comes with whatever big data processing software the company requires installed, configured and ready to rock — whether that’s Hadoop, Spark or whatever tools the company wants to use.
It also includes its own graph database engine called the Cray Graph Engine, which the company claims is ten to 100 times faster than current graph solutions running complex analytics operations. Graph databases let you run complex comparisons and is the same technology that understands you bought something on an ecommerce site, so you might like similar items, or that you’re friends with certain people on a social network, so you may know these common friends.
Cray acknowledges that one of the reason people like the cloud is the cloud vendor takes care of all the heavy lifting for IT. Cray decided to be the software service provider for its customers, offering a kind of Software as a Service where it pre-installs, configures and manages the base software for the customers on the Urika-GX. They also handle software upgrades every six months.
While the customer still deals with applications built on top of the platform, Cray will handle all of the big-picture stuff and work with the customer’s IT department on the rest. While it’s all well and good to say you’ll take care of the software maintenance, it gets tricky when the customer is building stuff on top of the software you installed and the vendor is responsible to make sure it all works.
Cray’s Ryan Waite, senior vice president of products, insists that Cray has a long history of working closely with its customers and can handle whatever grey areas may arise.
If you’re wondering how much these babies cost, Waite would only say it’s comparable to any big data processing solution, and probably not as much as you think. In other words, they have to compete, so the multi-million dollar price tags of yesteryear are long gone. He also indicated that the price depended on many factors including the hardware, software and support package the customer purchased.
That might not tell you much, but Cray is still delivering a powerhouse of a computer, that much is clear, one that remains the subject of geek dreams.