A cluster of apple G5 machines at Virginia Tech
November 19, 2003 2:22 AM   Subscribe

A cluster of apple G5 machines at Virginia Tech ranked number 3 in the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers. Apparently, the total cost of the system is around $5 million dollars while the two machines that beat it cost more than $300 million.
posted by geir (16 comments total)
*insert some whiney dork saying how he could build a cheaper machine with AMD parts, ignoring the fact that the VT people probably thought of that and decided against it for whatever reason*
posted by Space Coyote at 3:39 AM on November 19, 2003

actually you can't: the AMD and Intel architectures don't have altivec vector processing and are also not designed so as to be good at massively parallel processing. There are supercomputers on the list made of AMDs and Xenons and they are less speedy per CPU and cost 3-5 times as much.

When your code takes advantage of the Alitivec bits, G5s are considerably faster than AMD or Intel chips.
posted by n9 at 4:53 AM on November 19, 2003

Apparently the Xbox 2's are going to have G5's in them also. How times change...
posted by Spacelegoman at 5:56 AM on November 19, 2003

You know you're a super computer when, Gary Kasparov challenges you to game of chess.

that's all I have.
posted by LouieLoco at 7:33 AM on November 19, 2003

This is obviously stage one in the development of Appalachia's nuclear weapons program. Mwahahahahaha.....
posted by junkbox at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2003

Er...junkbox, I'm not sure that you appreciate the geography of Appalachia or Virginia. Appalachia doesn't start for about another 200 miles west of here, Appalachian Trail notwithstanding. Blacksburg has quite a burgeoning biotech program. Oh, and our congressional representative is Rick Boucher, who could kick your congressman's ass.

As a student at Virginia Tech, I've noticed that I only say "we" with regard to VT when talking about the cluster. "We have a bad-ass PPC cluster." "We have 1,100 G5s, you have 1, we win." Etc. But I never say things like "Hey, we won the big game," or "how come our school sucks in so many regards?" Funny, that.
posted by waldo at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2003

Oh, and our congressional representative is Rick Boucher, who could kick your congressman's ass.

Well, my governor can kick your congressman's ass.
posted by laz-e-boy at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2003

(NYT 11/14/2003) "SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 13 - I.B.M. plans to introduce a dishwasher-size prototype supercomputer on Friday that the company says will also have broad uses in high-capacity corporate data centers in the future.

The machine, Blue Gene/L, will be ranked as the 73rd-fastest computer in the world when a new listing of the 500 fastest computers appears on Sunday at the Supercomputer Conference, I.B.M. executives said.

It will be air-cooled, as opposed to many high-performance machines that use water and refrigeration, and it will use no more power than the average home, the executives said. Computer scientists and industry analysts said the Blue Gene/L represented a radical departure from the industry's obsession with ever-faster microprocessor chips. Instead, I.B.M. designers chose to balance computing speed and energy consumption to create a far denser data processing system than had previously been possible.

The computer is a component of a vastly larger system being designed for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. That machine, when it is completed in 2005, will have 128 times the power of the current prototype that is capable of a peak speed of about 1.4 trillion mathematical operations a second, I.B.M. said. Today, the world's fastest computer, the Japanese Earth Simulator, has reached speeds of 35.8 trillion calculations a second.

The Livermore machine is expected to have a theoretical peak performance of 360 trillion operations a second. In practice, however, supercomputers do not reach peak ratings for actual calculations. Although it will not be a computer for classified applications, the Livermore machine will be a significant step toward a Defense Department goal of creating a computer capable of reaching 1,000 trillion mathematical calculations a second - referred to as a petaflop - by the end of the decade.

The prototype has 512 PowerPC 440 microprocessors, which are similar to the I.B.M. 970 processor being used in Apple Computer's G5 Macintosh, but each with a lower clock speed. By lowering the clock speed governing how fast the chip executes calculations, it is possible to pack the processor chips far more closely together. Speed is then made up in other areas of the computing system.

"This is an extraordinarily well-balanced machine," said William R. Pulleyblank, director for exploratory server systems research at I.B.M. Research in Yorktown Heights, N.Y."
posted by troutfishing at 9:27 AM on November 19, 2003

I love it - An aircooled, dishwasher-sized supercomputer that only consumes as much power as the average American house!

It sounds like the Volkswagon beetle of supercomputers.
posted by troutfishing at 9:30 AM on November 19, 2003

Yeah it's true buying and running a supercomputer the data center and power costs not to mention cableing and space are a huge factor. A single air-cooled box is pretty amazing it makes it available to a lot of places that otherwise couldnt. But 512 PPCs air-cooled? They must have some big wompin loud fans.
posted by stbalbach at 10:07 AM on November 19, 2003

Where I come from, we used to say about Virginia Tech that if you drove by the campus with your window rolled down, they'd throw a diploma in.
posted by JanetLand at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2003

stbalbach - but think of the "solar chimney". If you designed the dishwasher-computer correctly, couldn't you create a similar effect for passive cooling? This might require a similar shape though - the box would be out, and you'd be stuck with an inverted cone with a very wide base which narrowed to a high "chimney". Apple might like it though. It could be made from molded, transparent colored plastic as with the iMacs - in grape, lime, aqua and so on. Maybe the warm airflow out the top could be put to good use too - as a hair dryer, say. Or it could be used as a desiccant to produce dried fruit and jerky.
posted by troutfishing at 2:39 PM on November 19, 2003

I, for one, welcome our new Apple G5 machine overlords.
posted by jengod at 4:01 PM on November 19, 2003

Okay, so it costs a sixtieth of the other two, how many more G5's would it take to dust them? I'd imagine it wouldn't cost $300 million.

And yes, this does solve it once and for all, Apple rules! Oh yeah, and processor speed is a PC spun non story. And Steve Jobs is really the advance guard for an alien takeover, soon we'll have black turtle neck and jeans wearing overlords.
posted by fenriq at 4:58 PM on November 19, 2003

Has someone taken a picture of this Hillbilly Supercomputer? I
posted by planetkyoto at 12:00 AM on November 20, 2003

They're creeping up on us. I've been considering some transhumanist brain mods to buy some time.
posted by troutfishing at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2003

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