* Posts by Barry Sharp

4 posts • joined 5 Jan 2008

Remembering the Cray-1

Barry Sharp

The Cray model roadmap 1976 - today

Cray-1, X-MP, Y-MP (first GFLOP in 1989)

then a split on the product line

Vector/Scalar - C90, T90, J90, SV1, SV1ex (the SVs were SGI's aspirations after buying Cray in 1996 for some $750M and 3 yrs later selling it off for $50M)

MPP (1000's of processors) - T3D, T3E, T3E-1200 (first sustained TFLOP), T3E-1350

then product line collapsed to one and continued on as...

High Bandwidth MPPs - Cray X1, X1e, XT3, XT4, XT5/XT5h, ...... onto PFLOP hardware maybe by 2010

Barry Sharp

The Cray SSD is now becoming command place on the desktop

With the follow-on to the Cray-1 came the Cray XMP which could be configured with an external Solid State Device (known as the SSD). This SSD was housed in a huge massive box some 8' tall and several feet long and was liquid cooled. It had up to 4 VHSP (Very High-Speed) channels into the XMP's main memory. The SSD could be used to extend main memory, one or more SSD file systems and/or file system cache (known as ldcache). It was extremely beneficial for out-of-core solutions where the main memory just wasn't large enough to hold an applications data.

No matter, my point is that today we are starting to see SSD-type devices becoming common place in the desktop. Sizes are up to 128 GB and expensive but the smaller ones such as 16, 32 and 64 are within desktop prices. It may even be that Apple's next model will come standard with SSD rather than a HD or could be an option. This is another example of how far technology has come since the Cray-1 and Cray XMP days - some 25 - 30 years.

So what do others predict will be around on the desktop in 2040 ?

Barry Sharp

Going beyond the popcount instruction...

Besides the special popcount instruction (which BTW was also very usful for determining disk space allocations in the disk allocation bit maps) there was the BMX or bit-matrix multiply. I don't exactly recall if this WAS in the Cray-1 but it certainly was in later Crays. This was a hardware feature that allowed a 64x64 bit matrix to be manipulated very quickly - again presumably for the Govt. spook sites.

The Cray OS was named COS until UNICOS came along during the 1980s.

We've had Crays since the Cray-1 days and have had every model except Cray C90 and the Cray-2. I would say the Cray-2 was the most visually exciting model. Today we have the liquid cooled Cray X1 with some 4096 GB physical memory (512,000 times the Cray-1's max memory size of 8 MB). The Cray X1 and X1e (X1e was the follow-on model to Cray X1) are the last of a kind - last of the big Cray Iron. Today we have the Cray XT4, XT5 and XT5h(or X2) - all come either air-cooled or chilled water cooled.

I recall when a Japanese research site bought a Cray T932. They were impressed that they were able to complete all of their 1 year's worth of research in just one month on the T932.

Crays have come a long way in 31 years. From being king of the hill in supercomputing to just one of the numerous HPC players today. They certainly had a good run.

Was it the Cray that gave rise to the word "supercomputing" ?

Barry Sharp
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We still have a Cray-1 :)

We still have our old Cray-1 in our data center foyer. A vertical clear plastic panel covers one segment so one can peer into the inards.

The leather clad seating was always useful late at night while developing code for the Cray-1. However, one needed to be careful when throwing down the briefcase onto the seating as it could impact the mainframe and cause electrical shorts issues.

As we were developing OS code enahancements we started with (paid for) 2MB, then went to 4MB and finally 8MB of central memory as it was so expensive.

We placed our Cray-1 in a room with a small window that had a blind on the inside. During production the blind was up for all employees to gawk at the Cray as it crunched on the numbers. At night when Admins and code developeres were swarming about we lowered the blind.

Your TOB article brings back fond memories.