Cray Sets the Record Straight

Your Web-exclusive article "Is Compute Cluster Server (CCS) the 'good enough' supercomputer?" ( September 4, 2006, InstantDoc ID 93391) on Microsoft's plans to enter the high-performance computing (aka supercomputing) market was interesting, but the information it contained about Cray was badly outdated and far off course.

Most of the supercomputers Cray sells today use Linux and standard AMD Opteron microprocessors, not custom processors, as your article states. In 1994, Cray introduced the Cray T3E, a product with up to 2048 standard Alpha microprocessors, which quickly became the market-leading massively parallel supercomputer. Our current Cray XT3 follows the same tradition of using standard microprocessors, only now we're using Opteron processors.

As for the article's conclusion that "the future seems obvious for the likes of Cray," which is based on the article's false statement that Cray supercomputers rely on custom processors, you should know that Cray recently captured the world's first order, valued at $200 million, for a supercomputer that will use tens of thousands of AMD Opteron processors and will be three times faster than any computer in existence today. This supercomputer will be installed in phases at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Cray's long-term partnership with AMD has also resulted in large orders from Sandia National Laboratories, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), and a series of other customers around the world.

Cray continues to make supercomputers with custom processors for certain important classes of applications. Standard x86 microprocessors aren't adept in every type of problem, and the slowdown

in computing progress that Moore's Law posits has motivated Cray and others to complement x86 processors with alternatives. Cray's Adaptive Supercomputing Vision aims to develop, in stages between now and 2010, supercomputing products that increasingly adapt to applications by applying the optimal processor type to each application or portion of an application.

These systems will be more productive, easier to program, and more robust than any contemporary supercomputer system.

—Jan Silverman Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development, Cray Inc.

Remote Desktop Connections Freeware

I read Michael Otey's Top 10: "Tips for Using Remote Desktop Connections" (August 2006, InstantDoc ID 50472). I can recommend a freeware utility called Royal TS that you can use to group your connections in a simple GUI. You can read about and download Royal TS at the following URL:

—Björn Lysell

DRM, Power Users, and Honest Mistakes

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology has many opponents. They argue that DRM isn't a secure solution—and they're right. Even if you're restricted from printing the document you're reading, even if you're not permitted to send it by email, you can certainly read it aloud to another person over the phone or into a voice recorder. So

what's the reason behind the technology? Why did Microsoft and others go to so much trouble to implement it? Because DRM, for example, will prevent a user from forwarding by mistake an email message she isn't supposed to forward. The point is that DRM protects users from making honest mistakes. Rather than a security measure, it's meant to help users comply with company policies.

The same goes for the Power Users group that Microsoft incorporated into its OSs beginning with Windows 2000. Mark Russinovich brilliantly,as always, explained in Tricks & Traps Ask the Experts "The POWER in Power Users" (August 2006, InstantDoc ID 50593) that a Power User could easily elevate herself to Administrator. But the Power Users group isn't a security measure, nor should it be viewed as such. It's a convenience added to the OS. Rather than give Administrator privileges to users, you give them Power User privileges (if doing so helps solve a problem), helping them comply with whatever restrictions their role requires.

Of course, administrators have to understand that users can find ways around DRM or Power Users restrictions if they wish. Many administrators don't realize that, so Mark Russinovich's analysis is of paramount importance.

There's certainly a place for solutions like DRM and the Power Users group, as long as they're aren't viewed as security measures but rather as a way to help users do their job with less fear of making mistakes or unintentionally violating corporate policies.

—Dimitrios Kalemis