Out of the Minneapolis suburbs they swarm in business suits, popping up at technical conferences and slowly picking the brains of the best scientists in a given field. Reconnaissance complete, they return home to sharpen their plans. A target is singled out for the kill—and if all goes well, Cray Research Inc. has sold another multimillion dollar supercomputer. This is the company’s newest sales hit team, comprising 60 of the company’s best salespeople, engineers, and scientists. Dubbed the “Industry, Science & Technology” department and created only last year, the team’s goal is to expand Cray’s market significantly beyond its traditional stake in the government defense sector to com panies and universities—and the strategy appears to be working.

Thanks in large part to this group’s ability to convince scientists that they need supercomputers, Cray is completing delivery and testing of an unprecedented 27 $2.5 million to $20 million machines in the...

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