Virginia Tech Power Mac G5 Supercomputer fires up today

The Virginia Tech Power Mac G5 supercomputer will become operational today according to Bryan Nieder of The Collegiate Times. 1,100 Power Mac G5 Dual 2GHz machines will form the cluster’s nodes and contains 4.4 terabytes of memory. The Vt Supercomputing project will hit its target of starting operations by Oct. 1 which allows it to be ranked for the next contest of the world


  1. Remember, the site was probably set up by someone with a PR or Journalism background. Anybody who pays attention when reading the paper or watching TV sees this kind of thing constantly. Remember that the next time some TV anchor is offering up their opinion on some talking head show.

  2. In Redmond, Wa… shortly after the supercomputer fires up…

    Bill… “Steve. I sense a disturbance in the force.”
    Steve… “I felt it too my emperor.”
    Bill… “Put your pants back on you monkey, and find out what it is.”
    Steve… “Yes my emperor.”
    Bill… “The son of Jobs must not become a player.”

  3. “Varadarajan said most quality computers fail about once per year and clustering 1100 computers together creates a multiplied failure rate that would be unacceptable. “

    Hopefully they will be pleasantly surprised at the reliability of the Apple PowerMac G5 machines. Apple should continue to work closely with VT to gain valuable desktop design experience (1100 computers operating 24/7 at one location). Hopefully the periodic progress/activity reports on the Virginia Tech G5 cluster will demonstrate that the PowerMacs are operationally robust and efficient as well as being cost-effective from a procurement standpoint.

  4. Jobs should learn from this and buy G5’s for Pixar’s “render farm”.

    Jobs knew about the G5 before he purchased all those Intel boxes. If Virginia Tech came to the conclusion that the G5 has a better cost to performance ratio, why didn’t Jobs wait?

    The only reason I can think of is that Jobs actually cares what the shareholders of Pixar think. He must have not wanted to have them perceive that he was supporting Apple with Pixar. Or he was not sure when IBM could deliver the G5.

    Anyone know what OS he is using for his render farm at Pixar? Linux, BSD, Darwin, or (GASP!) Windows?

  5. Congrats, VA Tech!

    If you wonder what 1100 G5s look like ALL at once, here you go:

    BTW failure rates are already taken into account: VA Tech has ported their own fault-response software (Deja Vu?) to OS X, and it can keep the cluster’s projects running through just about any human or non-human failure.

    PS, Pixar is adopting OS X, they anonounced this already. They may well use something else for render farming, but those machines are leased, so they can be changed to Macs if it makes sense–but Apple makes no blade servers. I expect the real human workstations to be Macs most likely, with Linux boxes to provide cheap rendering support. Why not? Macs play nice with other platforms, and so does most 3D software.

    Also, for future projects inspired by VA Tech, the Xserve G5 is on the way…

  6. Al, Pixar moved to Linux about a year ago. A little hard to wait a year to buy your next render farm when you need to make a movie. Every indication (hiring of Mac OS X transition staff and Porting renderman to Mac OS X) indicates that Pixar will move to the G5 for the next render farm (which is about 1 per movie).

  7. David,
    I agree that is a possibility. He may have needed to upgrade and probably could not wait the 9 months until the G5 was released. He announced the switch in Feb of 2003 after Pixar had the new system up.

    BUT, Pixar has been producing very impressive movies with their old system. And on a relatively short schedule.

    It is hard for other companies to purchase Apple products when Jobs prefers Intel over Apple. If Jobs felt G4 was too expensive for the performance, he should have lowered the prices. The same factors Pixar used to make their decision are the same other companies use.

    Also, he ported Renderman to Linux first. Not to BSD, Darwin or OS X. That does send a message as well.

  8. Jobs does not control Pixar single-handedly. It would have been wrong to dictate Apple products before Apple was the best solution, or to override the reasonable decisions of people at Pixar. The shareholders of Pixar would have had a real complaint to make then. Remember that Pixar’s needs are SPECIFIC. “Other companies” need not see any of it as a negative against Apple, unless their specific needs were the same as Pixar’s. Pixar needed blade servers for instance–a cost-effective option Apple still does not make.

    But now it makes sense to adopt more Apple products, and they are doing so. Just as it should be.

  9. We shall see how hundreds of G5s perform as a supercomputer before we can establish if they would make a good render-farm.

    By the way, Pixar has not produced a flop yet. This puts a lot of pressure on their upcoming projects as any of them could be The One. Imagine what a dissapointment it would be for Jobs and all the Mac fans if the G5 rendered Pixar film does not do well in the box-office.

  10. I don’t think anyone will blame the hardware for a movie that’s a creative flop!

    The rendered look–and the tools that faciliate the creative process–would be the same on Mac.

  11. I just became operational on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign just five years ago. I hope that I don’t get bumped from being installed on the Discovery. My mind is going…

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