Apple Macintosh becoming a serious player in supercomputing

“Apple wasn’t a serious player until researchers discovered how well its high-end computer clusters perform for a relatively low price… The tight-knit supercomputing community was surprised by what Virginia Tech and Apple pulled out of their hat — and impressed. It didn’t take long for others to jump on the Big Mac wagon. The newest system aims to one-up Virginia Tech by linking 1,566 G5 Xserve units. Dubbed Mach 5 (slated to go into service this fall at the Army Research & Development Command’s Aviation & Missile Research, Development & Engineering Center in Huntsville) and being built by Colsa Corp., this cluster will have a theoretical peak speed of more than 25 teraflops. That would earn the No. 2 spot on the Top500 list that was issued in June,” Otis Port reports for BusinessWeek.

“A few other customers are picking up on that message. The University of Maine plans a cluster of 256 G5 servers. UCLA’s Plasma Physics Group is pumping up its Apple resources again, this time with 256 G5s. And Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Brain, Mind & Behavior has installed a 64-node Xserve G5 cluster,’ Port reports. “Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is dreaming of still bigger Roman-numeral systems. First will be System L, offering 50 teraflops or more. Then comes System C, with 100 teraflops or 100 trillion calculations every second. Varadarajan and his collaborators might just become modern-day digital Johnny Appleseeds.”

Full article here.


  1. one of the wonderful things about Apple’s position is it’s room for growth in all it’s areas of competition. That is what makes this stock such a promising purchase in my opinion.

  2. One of the WWDC announcements that didn’t seem to get much attention is that Tiger will have Xgrid built in. I’m not sure but it sounds like any business with decent network bandwidth will be able to enable the XGRID to take advantage of unused processor bandwidth.
    Very Cool. (if my assumptions are accurate)

  3. “PIXAR seems to cobble together enough power to make a feature-length movie with G5 clusters…”

    Actually, I remember reading somewhere that Pixar was using Dells running Linux for The Incredibles. They bought them before Apple came out with Xserves. Maybe that’ll change for Cars.

  4. Skynet,
    I’m glad you brought up Xgrid, and your assumptions are indeed accurate. My brother and I tried out the Xgrid beta on our PowerBooks and his dual G4 (just ran a few Mandelbrot sets and some simple shell scripts) and it works as advertised. In typically elegant fashion, Apple has given us a glimpse of the future. Cluster computing for the rest of us. I’ve been wondering about the possibilities of a combination of Xgrid and Automator in Tiger.

    My brother (a compsci grad) was really excited about the potential, and last I saw him, he was wondering if it was possible to write an app to enable distributed encoding of DVD’s. My head started to hurt at that point, so I left him to it.

  5. “Pixar announced a couple of months ago that they were switching over to Mac G5s.”

    Yes, but Peter is correct; none of Pixar’s films released to date were rendered on Apple hardware. Their render farms (they apparently build a new one for each movie) previously ran Solaris (I believe), then Linux. Also, The Incredibles was in production well before the G5 processor was released.

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