University of York Neuroimaging Centre chooses ‘faster and cheaper’ Apple Mac over Windows, Linux

“The University of York’s Neuroimaging Centre has made a £300,000 investment in Apple technology, including the Mac OS X operating system. Jobs which once took days now take minutes, improving productivity and lowering costs,” Lindsay Clark reports for ComputerWeekly.

“A review by the university’s computer science department found the operating system to be faster and cheaper than Windows and Linux for the scientific imagining applications,” Clark reports.

“‘We wanted a high-performance computing system that could cope with many potential users and fast turnarounds,’ professor Gary Green, director of the Centre, said. ‘In the past, processing jobs could take weeks, and yet much of the analysis is fine grained and very repetitive, so we were looking for a system that could handle large data sets in parallel,'” Clark reports. “Green wanted to deploy the system on a grid system, which could allow it to scale and evolve when necessary. He also wanted off-the-shelf software at a good price.”

“Having decided on the specification, an independent survey was conducted by a team of computer scientists. Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Sun technology were all assessed with a fixed set of criteria,” Clark reports. “A long list of standard brain-imaging software was tested on them, including Matlab, Atlas, Maple, Brainstorm, Neurolens, Brainvoyager and MPI. More general software programs were tested such as those for firewalls, databases and e-mail. Technology was also assessed for security, back-up and support, future-proofing and upgrade paths, contingency planning and cost.”

“‘Apple won hands down,” said Green. ‘It was the fastest and easily the cheapest option in storage, back-up and computing,'” Clark reports.

“The Centre’s overall investment in Apple technology amounts to around £300,000. This includes 52 Dual Processor Xserve G5 cluster nodes, 8 Xserve G5 servers, 10 Power Mac G5s, 2 5TB and 2 3TB Xserve RAIDs (mirrored in another building for 32TB of total storage), 34 iMac G5s, 2 Opteron Linux Firewalls, 2 HP 128-port Ethernet switches, a 32-port Fibre channel switch, a HP tape library and various printers, faxes, photocopiers and digital cameras,” Clark reports.

Clark reports, “Green is particularly pleased with the performance of the Xserve cluster. He said: ‘We’ve already adapted software to the cluster so that it can perform proper parallel computing. Jobs that previously took days now take minutes, even seconds. This obviously makes a huge difference in terms of workflow and productivity.'”

More in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Excellent choice, obviously, but: G5 Xserves, iMacs, and Power Macs? Sheesh. What year is this? No wonder they were cheaper.

That said, this shows the excellent raw performance those PowerPC G5-based Macs offerred.


  1. A friend of mine is in publishing with another scientific institution. Just as the Intel chips were coming on line, his department converted to OSX and an all G5 shop, so as not to be subject to Rosetta, and all the software upgrades. The training and software costs could have been crippling. The delay waiting for CS3 would have been inconvenient, as well. I believe they may have gotten a substantial deal on the newly obsolete equipment at a major online retailer.

  2. Any neuroimaging lab worth their weight uses Linux or OS X. Windows is pretty much a joke for high-end computational analyses in the field of neuroscience. Some might have a PC in the corner to print out ppt posters or what-not, but that’s about it.

  3. First, let us be emphatically clear.

    The University of York is in no way affiliated with York University.

    At York University we use Core 2 Duos. They’re in Dells but they’re not antiquated G5’s.

  4. Megahertz to megahertz, the three year-old (!) G5’s are close in performance to today’s Core 2 Duo’s. In very unscientific tests performed by me, my MacBook Pro with a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo transcodes a DVD in 85% of the time it takes my dual 2 GHz G5 to do the same job. Considering that there is a 10% difference in cumulative CPU clock speed, I’m amazed that the “ancient” G5 is able to keep up with the Core 2 Duo so well.

  5. @G5 keeps up with Core 2 Duo decently

    Agreed. My dual processor G5 2.3GHz (dual 1.15GHz FSBs) is on par with my 3-year newer MBP 2.33GHz (667MHz FSB). It took Intel 3 years to catch up. The G5 really was an excellent chip.

  6. @Macintosh, RE: JPL

    My father in law works in HR at JPL and he said he had to fight to get their online job application program to be Mac compatible. Half the lab runs on Macs, yet the company they outsourced the job to wanted to make the job application app Windows IE only because “nobody uses Macs.” Sure, we want to hire folks who are Mac experts, but we wont let them apply for the job using a Mac. Idiots.

  7. “The University of York’s Neuroimaging Centre has made a £300,000 investment in Apple technology, including the Mac OS X operating system. Jobs which once took days now take minutes, improving productivity and lowering costs,”

    Easily a no brainer decision there.

  8. The difference between IT guys and scientists ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” /> One thinks he knows the truth and works hard as hell to make everyone else believe it too. The other figures he’d better check them all and gather actual facts and figures.

    Those scientists are so wacky.

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