COLSA to build ‘MACH 5’ Apple Xserve G5 supercomputer for US Army, to run Mac OS X ‘Panther’ Server

COLSA Corporation today announced the purchase of 1566 dual processor 1U rack-mount 64-bit Xserve G5 servers from Apple to build a new supercomputer expected to be one of the fastest in the world. The supercomputer, named MACH 5, is a breakthrough in price performance for high performance computing. It is expected to deliver a peak performance capability of more than 25 TFlops/second at a cost of $5.8 million and will be used to model the complex aero-thermodynamics of hypersonic flight for the US Army.

“We expect MACH 5 to rank as one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet,” said Dr Anthony DiRienzo, executive vice president at COLSA Corporation in the press release. “According to the November 2003 Top 500 supercomputer list, it would rank second only to Japan’s $350 million Earth Simulator computer at less than two percent of the cost. We evaluated PC-based proposals from other vendors but none came close to delivering either the price, performance or manageability of the Apple Xserve G5.”

“Apple is honored that COLSA chose the Xserve G5 to build their supercomputer cluster,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing in the press release. “The ground breaking 64-bit performance and incredible I/O capabilities of the Xserve G5, combined with the reliability and scalability of our UNIX-based Mac OS X Server software deliver high performance computing solutions perfect for anyone looking to cluster from two to thousands of nodes, at an unbeatable price.”

The Xserve G5 supercluster system is expected to be on-line and working for the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) division of the US Army Research and Development Command by late Fall. This acquisition is the second phase of a multi year COLSA program to create a center of excellence in Huntsville, AL for high performance computing. Through the continued efforts of Senator Richard Shelby, (R.), AL, a long term supporter of bringing this advanced capability to Huntsville, the new system will benefit both the U.S. Army and NASA for the National Aerospace Initiative and their research and development objectives.

Apple’s dual-processor 64-bit Xserve G5 server delivers over 30 gigaflops of processing power per system, about 60 percent more than the PowerPC G4-based Xserve. With unparalleled performance and manageability in a 1U rack-mount enclosure and Mac OS X Server version 10.3 “Panther” software pre-installed, Xserve G5 is the perfect server for today’s UNIX-based applications.

COLSA Corporation, headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, provides innovative technical products and services to a broad base of customers. COLSA excels in six essential areas of service: Information Systems, Commercial Services, Test and Evaluation, Systems Engineering, Advanced Technology, and Information Technology Professional Services (GSA Schedule). More information is available at

CNET’s Stephen Shankland reports,”MACH 5, which stands for Multiple Advanced Computers for Hypersonic, G5, will occupy 42 racks and 600 square feet of floor space, said Anthony DiRienzo, a Colsa executive vice president. Apple was the winning bidder among six companies, DiRienzo said, declining to name the competitors.”

“One difference between MACH 5 and [Virginia Tech’s ‘Big Mac’] System X is the networking system that connects the individual servers. Where System X used the high-speed InfiniBand technology, MACH 5 will use the more conventional 1 gigabit-per-second Ethernet, DiRienzo said. The fluid dynamics simulations Colsa will run require more processor power than top networking speed, he said,” Shankland reports.

“System X’s successor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is expected to be running in time to produce a score for the coming November version of the Top500 list, said Alex Grossman, director of server and storage hardware at Apple. The upgraded Virginia Tech system is being built using Xserve G5 machines,” Shankland reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: To term this news “huge” would be an understatement.


  1. Ryan: yes, we will see market share growth if the public finds out about it, and is told why Apple computers are different, but more importantly, why they are better.

    If that does not happen, then it will only be a minor bump.

    Ok to celebrate for 15 seconds, but then Apple needs to get back to work!

  2. kenh,

    fedex, which just completed the purchase of Kinkos is in the process of cleaning out all Macs in said stores, though this process started before the acquisition. I walked into the one location where I used to work and they had just installed Panther! The wierd thing is, they said it was useless cause you could not print because the network did not recognize it. Seems like they still don’t know how to compile their custom Mac OS packages.

  3. Yes yes yes yes.

    Now lets just have someone spend $50,000,000 on a G5 HPC and it would be the fastest in the world and still loads cheaper than the Earth simulator.

    *WHAM* take that Intel.
    *Bam* take that Windows HPC.


    Keep em coming

  4. These clusters are gonna clean out all the high-end chips! And they still won’t be able to do what Rutan can at a fraction of the cost. Anyway… good coup!

  5. VERY COOL….
    At this rate, Macs will becoming the darling of the high-end enterprise. That would be just too funny after all the crap IT departments have been spewing about Macs all these years.
    Yes, yes, we’re not nearly there yet, but let’s enjoy our victories…

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