IBM, Cray, Sun win supercomputer grants

By Stephen Shankland
July 8 The U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday awarded grants totaling more than $146 million to Cray, IBM and Sun Microsystems for work to create supercomputers by the end of the decade.

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        The grants, from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are part of a program to ensure the United States has competitive supercomputers for military, intelligence-gathering and industrial purposes, the agency said in a statement.
        NEC's Earth Simulator supercomputer in Japan alarmed the U.S. government when it took the No. 1 position in a recent list of the 500 fastest supercomputers.
        DARPA's grants marked phase two of its High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program to create a new generation of high-performance technical computers by 2009 or 2010. The first phase evaluated several approaches to building new computers; the second funds three-year research and development plans; the third phase is a four-year, full-scale engineering and development effort.
        IBM has been working hard on displacing Hewlett-Packard as the top seller of high-performance computers. The U.S. government is one of Big Blue's biggest customers for such systems. Meanwhile, Sun is working to elevate its high-performance computing program, and Cray hopes its new X-1 computer will convince buyers that supercomputer specialists can compete with general-purpose computer makers.
        Three phase-two winners were announced Tuesday:
          IBM received $53.3 million for its PERCS (Productive,         Easy-to-use, Reliable Computing Systems) program to design computers that can be adapted to many different types of work.
          Sun Microsystems received $49.7 million for its Hero program to boost productivity through use of simpler, tightly integrated computer designs and new programming tools.
          Cray, in combination with New Technology Endeavors, received $43.1 million for work in areas such as boosting memory performance by incorporating processors within memory system and building high-speed, low-delay networks.
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