Changing supercomputing market
The supercomputing market has declined dramatically in recent months, and Cray's financial results have suffered as a result. The company's revenues fell from $105.5 million (£82.3 million) in the first quarter of 2016 to $59 million (£46.3 million) in the first quarter of 2017, with net losses hitting $19.2 million (£15 million).
Ulmer attributes the drop primarily to dwindling budgets in the public sector, traditionally the primary source of its business. Supercomputing as a service can open up the company to new customers.
High performance computing (HPC) is already offered by cloud providers such as AWS and Google. Cray claims to offer the same convenience of the cloud, but with greater computing power and more control over the hardware.
"You don't compromise on performance, that's the main difference," says Ulmer.
"When you go to a standard cloud provider, you don't get that level of performance that you normally would get. Now if you look at the model that we implemented with the Urika-GX, when you lease the system over at Markley, say for a week or so, the system is not shared with anybody else. So you don't have the influence of activities of other people on that system.
"You get the full performance of it. It's not a general purpose cloud infrastructure. It's really designed as a supercomputer, and you get that full design dedicated to you."
Ulmer adds that Cray's supercomputing as a service model also gives a level of control lacking in the other HPC options available in the cloud.
"If you want to achieve performance, you have to control the hardware to a certain extent," he says. "That's the whole thing behind supercomputing. And what we will do is we'll give you the ease of access, but we will provide that the system hardware stays controlled and you get the full Cray software stack, which allows you to scale your application further and let it run faster.
"You get the know-how and the expertise of Cray. You get the control over the hardware, as much as possible. But at the same time you get the ease of use of the cloud."
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