Hewlett Packard Enterprise goes Cray, buys supercomputer maker for $1.3 billion

Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced today that it would be buying supercomputer firm Cray.

For folks not aware, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (or HPE) was founded back in 2015, as a result of the main HP firm splitting in two: an enterprise entity (HPE), and a consumer-facing one (HP Inc). HPE is focused on building products for the intelligent edge, servers, networking, as well as offering hybrid IT solutions. This means, of course, the involvement of AI in many scenarios, and thus, the Cray acquisition makes sense.

Cray, as one of the biggest players in the supercomputer arena, has its own AI-focused supercomputers, as well as an active partnership with Microsoft for the use of its systems in Azure datacenters.

Antonio Neri, President and CEO, HPE, stated:

"Answers to some of society’s most pressing challenges are buried in massive amounts of data(...).

Only by processing and analyzing this data will we be able to unlock the answers to critical challenges across medicine, climate change, space and more. Cray is a global technology leader in supercomputing and shares our deep commitment to innovation. By combining our world-class teams and technology, we will have the opportunity to drive the next generation of high performance computing and play an important part in advancing the way people live and work.”

Echoing Neri's sentiment, Peter Ungaro, President and CEO of Cray, said:

“This is an amazing opportunity to bring together Cray’s leading-edge technology and HPE’s wide reach and deep product portfolio, providing customers of all sizes with integrated solutions and unique supercomputing technology to address the full spectrum of their data-intensive needs(...).

HPE and Cray share a commitment to customer-centric innovation and a vision to create the global leader for the future of high performance computing and AI. On behalf of the Cray Board of Directors, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that we believe maximizes value and are excited for the opportunities that this unique combination will create for both our employees and our customers.”

While the changes related to the buyout will be many, the particular effects of the acquisition, as underlined by HPE, are:

  • Future HPC-as-a-Service and AI / ML analytics through HPE GreenLake
  • A comprehensive end-to-end portfolio of HPC infrastructure – compute, high-performance storage, system interconnects, software and services supplementing existing HPE capabilities to address the full spectrum of customers’ data-intensive needs
  • Differentiated next-generation technology addressing data intensive workloads
  • Increased innovation and technological leadership from leveraging greater scale, combined talent and expanded technology capabilities
  • Enhanced supply chain capabilities leveraging US-based manufacturing

This announcement comes not long after Cray unveiled a $600 million exascale - computers that are capable of one exaFLOP or one quintillion calculations per second - contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. At an expected 1.5 exaflops, this particular supercomputer is "targeted to be the world's fastest" system of its kind, making use of the firm's Shasta architecture and Slingshot interconnect.

All of the above make sense in the context that the High-performance computing (HPC) market is said to grow to $35 billion in 2021. A combined solution of this sort can be used to advance "critical academic research, including predicting future weather patterns, delivering breakthrough medical discoveries, and preventing cyber-attacks".

HPE's acquisition of Cray is expected to close by the first quarter of HPE's FY2020, which starts November 1, 2019. The buyout is, of course, subject to regulatory approval.

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