University of Illinois’ Apple Xserve Turing Cluster could peak at nearly 10 teraflops

The University of Illinois’ new Turing Cluster is located in the Digital Computer Laboratory and consists of 640 Apple Xserves, each with two 2 GHz G5 processors and 4 GB of RAM, for a total of 1280 processors. The primary network connecting the cluster machines is a high-bandwidth, low-latency Myrinet network from Myricom. In addition, all machines in the cluster are also connected by a 100 Mbs switched, full-duplex Ethernet using switches from Cisco Systems, and there is a 1 Gbs link between the front-end array and the primary Cisco switch. The operating system for the Turing Cluster is Mac OS X Server, currently version 10.3.

“The cluster is housed in a newly renovated server room that can handle a cooling load of up to 550,000 BTU per hour and supports over 45 tons of cooling capacity using four distinct cooling systems — three of which can adequately support the cluster at any given time,” AppleInsider reports. “In the near future, the University hopes to be able to perform tests to rank the cluster’s computational ability, which, according to its specifications, could peak at nearly 10 teraflops.” AppleInsider also reports that the possibility exists that the University may consider “expanding the cluster to 1280 nodes, double its current size” in the future.

More info and photos here.


  1. For those of you that may be mathematically challenged, 10 TeraFLOPS is very fast.

    First let’s talk about the speed of light. At (aprox.) 186,000 miles per second, light can travel around the equator (24,902 miles) almost 7.5 times in just ONE second. That’s pretty far for just one second.

    Now, in that same second, the U of I computer can perform 10,000,000,000,000 floating-point instructions. So now let’s chop up the 186,000 miles into 10,000,000,000,000 parts to see how far light travels during just 1 instruction. That comes to .0011785 inches per instruction. When you’re talking about something zipping along at the speed of light, it doesn’t take long to go one one-thousandth of an inch.

    In slightly less brain-numbing terms, in the time it takes this same 7-global-trips-in-one-second light to go from your monitor to your eye, a whole 24 inches, the U of I computer could have performed about 23,365 floating-point operations.

    If you can’t picture the speed of light coming from your monitor, let’s say you can type at a blazing rate of 150 wpm (750 characters/min). This computer can perform 800,000,000,000 instructions BETWEEN each of your keystrokes.

  2. Using Xserves in supercomputing clusters is just a fad, you know, like Cray. Remember them? Anyway, it’s a one-time product. There’s no sustainable business model here – like, how many clusters can there be anyway?

    Now, Dell is focused on businesses first. We sell them our products to use as cash registers, ordering stations, and kiosks.

  3. 1) 186,000 MPS – it’s not only a good idea, it’s the law!
    2) Will this Turing Cluster be able to pass the Turing Test? I don’t think so.

    (The Turing Test is a classic question in Artificial Intelligence first posed by Dr. Alan Turing. If the computer can respond to questions sufficent to fool the questioner that it is human, then it passes the test.)

  4. As a U of I Alum, it’s nice to see we have braggin’ rights for teraflops and basketball. Go Illini! We just whumped Michigan State, now let’s go kick Dell’s ass!

  5. i wonder if a virus will bring that system down faster

    just think, even though mac don’t have virus

    wondering if u could write virus for window base websites

    and then redirect them to the apple website and bring

    down the website like that virus did to that Microsoft


  6. theman-x: nope. It is nonsense. An Apple website would run Apache. A Windows based web site would not. A virus shutting down a Windows web will do absolutely nothing on an Apache web server.

    Viruses are highly specific, they do not migrate from one OS to a different one. The vast majority of viruses are Windows ones, not computer viruses.
    Some attacks Linux, some fewer Unix of various incarnations, NONE attack OS X.


  7. Nicely put Aryugaetu. Now for the important question. This article specifically states that these machines are each connected with 100/mbs, the same rate supported by the Mac Mini.

    Does this mean Mac mini’s would work in the same spots with the same software?

  8. What about this: Every powermac could add boards that have 2 chips on ’em.
    O.K. now you can put THREE boards, in the THREE slots…
    Now you get 8 GHZ !!! total power.
    That’s 8GHZ(say with a dual 2 ghz machine)
    Or 11GHZ (say with a dual 2.5 ghz machine)
    Anybody can add the boards.
    Now can somebody make those boards I’m talking about?
    Would OS X be able to use ’em?

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