‘Big Mac’ Supercomputer may open enterprise market doors for Apple

“When Virginia Tech created the world’s third-fastest supercomputer last year by stringing together 1,100 Apple Computer Inc. Macintoshes, no one seemed more stunned than Apple itself. Sure, the firm had long touted the newest G5 models as fast. But that referred to their speedy film editing and CD burning, not the massive number crunching needed to sequence genomes or model weather patterns,” Ken Spencer Brown writes for Investor’s Business Daily. “‘It shocked a lot of people,’ said Virginia Tech spokeswoman Lynn Nystrom.”

“Apple may have more surprises on the way. The company best known for the slick iPod and cutesy iMac is betting that Virginia Tech’s coup opens doors to new, more button-down markets,” Brown writes. “The supercomputer market itself is tiny. Virginia Tech’s system costs $5.2 million


  1. It sure makes it more feasable for more universities to hop on board the Mac platform and make their own Superclusters. It’s well within the range of many schools that want the experience without the massive price tag. (Yeah, I know, 5.2 Million ain’t cheap, but it’s just a fraction of what the other top 5 Superclusters cost)

  2. You know, I hate to say this but maybe it’s time for Apple to go back to boring beige boxes. Every article talks about how what Apple is best at is the design of the box. Well, yes, they absolutely do have the best looking hardware out there, no doubt about it. But people don’t buy their computers because of what they look like (not even Mac users), they buy them because of what it will let them do. What Apple is really best at is designing a superior operating system, yet no one ever seems to mention that, or if they do, it’s always still in the shadow of the great looking hardware. So maybe they should go back to boring beige. No, I don’t want that to happen. OK, how about they don’t show the hardware in any of their commercials anymore, only the OS. Will that help???

  3. Apple aims for an outstanding figure in the computer industry.
    A company that innovates and does things right.
    I don’t wish Apple to become one day what Microsoft is nowadays. I want Apple to become the “Mercedes/BMW” or should I dare to say “Rolls-Royce” in the computer industry.
    An inspiring product design, quality and performances that others will have no choice but to imitate it.
    … Actually, it’s already the case in a way…

  4. Boeing777, I rather see them become more like “Honda,” good and popular car manufacturer, whose CEO and engineers still prefer to dream about building race bikes and F1 racers.

  5. Well the outer design of the powerbook drew me in further after I learned what was inside and what it can do. The outside is important as well, no PB or iBook user will say they wish thier notebook was fatter.

  6. Boeing777, if you knew anything about Rolls Royce.. you’d never say that. Take it from a guy with two of them… they’re nothing but maintenance… and headache…

  7. I think Apple could have a real winner here, provided that they support the product well and make it easy for data warehouses to switch.

    So many times when searching ISPs for Mac-based hosting (I deal with a lot of mac-based clients) I get denied because the warehouse behing the ISP, will only provide support for NT, Linux, or (so-called) traditional unix boxes like sunfires etc.

    It means that I have to turn around to the client, and say that I cannot provide the so-called four-nines (99.99%) uptime unless they migrate to Linux or whatever the warehouse does support.

    Now Apple could really play a part here, because these are unix geeks, they are not your run-of-the-mill CIOs that follow the herd, and they will soon see that Xserve is every bit the enterprise server that a sunfire is.

  8. I like ndelc’s idea about just showing the OS in Commercials. They could have a big flash one showing all the “wow” factors. Then have a series showing how to do common things.

    Of course as mac users we all know how to do all these things but think of the possible impact for Windows users or people just thinking of getting into computing. e.g. This is how you get digital photos out of your camera and into your computer. 1. hook up your camera like this. 2. Click on this button.
    This is how you put the photo you took in an email. 1. Select the photo. 2. Click on this button. This is how you turn off your computer. 1. press the same button you used to turn it on (Windows users please do not do this as it could break your computer) 2. Click on this button.

    Everybody would feel they already knew how to run a mac and the windows users would compare in their heads to how complicated it is on their current machines.

  9. “How about several Universities in VA, or better, around US or the world have a smaller cluster (100+) that linked together to form a large net of supercomputers.” – teetime

    Unfortunately, the lag time is prohibitive. There is a reason why VT uses InfiniBand: to minimize the latency when the computers talk to each other. A cluster is not very effective over a great distance to qualify as a top supercomputer, it will just be a cluster.

  10. MDN, I suggest you use the correct name for the supercomputer, as there’s a logic behind it.

    It is now called Virginia Tech X. This name is because it was the first academic cluster to surpass 10 gigaflops. It is also a pun on Mac OS X.

    In the future, they hope/plan to build Virginia Tech L (50 gigaflops) and Virginia Tech C (100 gigaflops).

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.