InformationWeek: Apple Mac is better, faster, cheaper

“Apple Computer makes cool computers. In the business world, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But when racking up 1,566 Apple Xserves, cool–in the thermal sense of the word–counts,” Thomas Claburn reports for InformationWeek.

“Defense contractor Colsa Corp. buys high-performance computer clusters for the U.S. Army. That means competitive bidding, as in the case of an Army supercomputer project that went up for bid in April. With requirements that specified footprint, power-management options, and a peak performance of 25 teraflops–computational speed surpassed by only one supercomputer in the world as of August–the company fielded proposals from six major vendors. ‘Apple won on technical [merits] and cost,’ executive VP Anthony DiRienzo says,” Claburn reports.

“Colsa’s Xserve cluster draws about a third as much power as systems that were proposed by Apple’s competitors, executive VP DiRienzo says. Apple did a great deal of engineering of its Xserve 1U nodes, DiRienzo says. The company has driven the power consumption down considerably, and it has done a lot of sophisticated engineering to get the heat out. “We’ve been racking up a lot of different types of these clusters, and [with] a lot of them, once you put 30 of them in a rack, you can’t turn them up to full power because they can’t dissipate the heat,” DiRienzo says. But Colsa’s Xserve cluster, dubbed Mach5, which should be operational this fall, draws about half a megawatt of power. The systems proposed by the competition required up to three times that. As a consequence, some of the competing systems required more processors, which drove up the cost,” Claburn reports.

“Apple–cost competitive? The Army was as skeptical as anybody familiar with the business-technology market, DiRienzo says, asking the usual questions: ‘Why are you going to put it on Apple? They’re more expensive. Are you going to get the same thing out?’ But the project worked so well, ‘they were very supportive of us as we went through this solicitation and this acquisition,’ DiRienzo says. ‘They’re happy with the performance that the Apples should give.’ They’re especially happy with the price tag: $5.8 million. The next-closest bid came in at $7.4 million,” Claburn reports.

Full article here.


  1. Realistically, Apple has only just started to catch up with raw power in the processing world but that is due to IBMs chip which was however integrated by Apple. The G3 should have exploded much faster and the G4 took it’s time as well. Motorola just wasn’t cutting it.

    I think since the 1Ghz G4 mark that Apple could finally claim a place in the “powerful” computer race. But for quality, Apple has been hands down leader for years. Just don’t get the 2 confused.

  2. >Why are you going to put it on Apple? They’re more expensive.

    Is that how smart the army is? Don’t these guys ever do any analysis before pullin’ the trigger?

    Wait, I get it. It turned out to be 1.4M cheaper. But who cares … it’s only the taxpayer’s money, right?

  3. This goes to show you how hard it is to change a mindset once it is established. Apple established the mindset, and now they are changing it. In fact, they changed it a few years ago, but people are finally starting to wake up.

  4. notatotalsucker –

    i have worked for DOD and civilian contractors, and know the huge difference in the process – government agencies are not allowed to accept bids on hardware that are below cost, so realistically, they are not losing any money on the machines, just not profiting much.

    Berkley is currently bidding for a similar cluster, 900+ machines, all at only a fraction below the educational cost. so, probably saving 15-18% per machine.

  5. that comment about the army being 10 years late is a little misleading.

    Apple had no machines worth clustering 10 years ago. Arguably, the generation 1 xserves weren’t much of a bargain either.

  6. I love all the articles. It helps when I spread the gospel.

    I know something is working b/c my die-hard Windows only friend conceded and told me, “You win – Macs are better.”

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