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Virginia Tech's Mac Pro supercomputer to crack 29 teraflops

post #1 of 25
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A switch to newer Intel-based Apple Mac Pro workstations for an upcoming rekindling of Virginia Tech's supercomputer efforts will more than double the performance to as much as 29 teraflops and will once again put a Mac cluster in the limelight -- this time, placing it among the top 100 supercomputers in the world.

When it's completed in the next several weeks, the new project discussed with Ars Technica will rely on 324 eight-core, 2.8GHz Mac Pro towers to achieve the result, joining them across a quad-speed InfiniBand link that offers three times as much room for network traffic as the original model, dubbed System X.

Although the school is using just a third of the computers found in the earlier cluster, which at its peak has used 1,150 Xserve G5s, the fresh cluster will have a total of 2,592 cores that individually operate faster than each of the 2,200 PowerPC chips found in the older rackmount computers. The old system at most processed 12.25 teraflops and itself eclipsed the original System X, based on 1,100 PowerMac G5s.

The performance of the new Xeon-based cluster at its theoretical peak of 29 teraflops would be enough to take 65th place in the Top500 supercomputer charts from June, outpacing famous supercomputer designers such as Cray and SGI as well as scientific institutions that include CERN in Switzerland and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US.

Real-world performance is likely to dip due to performance overhead, but record-setting isn't its only reason for being, according to Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan, director of Virginia Tech's Center for High-end Computing Systems. Instead, the Mac Pro edition will sit aside System X and will be dedicated to researching power-efficient software as well as shared-memory computing.

Even if it doesn't smash performance barriers, the new, unnamed cluster will still serve as an example of how technology has advanced both for Apple and the industry at large. While the sheer amount of power and heat from the Xserve group requires a specialized liquid-air cooling in an equally special building, the lesser power demands of the Xeons and their looser spacing in a tower format means that the institution can house the new cluster in a conventional room.

And it may also serve to humble Apple's rivals in the workstation space, according to Dr. Varadarajan. Since the Mac Pro includes so many sensors to monitor heat and power levels, it's considered better than many workstations for research where both measurements are critical to the tasks at hand. The Macs are likewise said to be fundamentally less expensive for the same level of performance than similar systems from Apple's competitors.

"The Mac Pros are highly competitive even against building a white box off the cheapest prices," the researcher notes.
post #2 of 25
Glad I'm not paying the electricity bill Way to go
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
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post #3 of 25
I wonder if they are going to sell the XServe G5's like last time because if so I'm in line!
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post #4 of 25
As I recall the first VT cluster at the time was 3rd on the list of "Top 500" and ran the Mac OS.

The article does not mention what OS is being used, OS 10.5, Win XP 64-bit, Linux or all three at once. Anyone know?

Has any "Top 500" computer ever run Windows???

The only Supercomputer I ever "operated" was back in '63. It had a super-fast punch-card feeder but the console's vacuum tubes took 5-7 minutes to warm-up.




IBM 704, TI99-4A, Mac 128k and 9 other mac's since.
post #5 of 25
Welcome in advance to the poster below who is "proving" that Macs cost more than equivalently-spec'd Windows PCs
post #6 of 25
The Top 500 operating systems list can be found at:

http://www.top500.org/stats/list/31/os

Yes, windows have 5 on the list.

The IBM 704 fell off the list almost 50 years ago.
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by EyeNsteinNo View Post



Has any "Top 500" computer ever run Windows???

I would think the problem would be it would it would get viruses faster than Norton could deal with
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
"Google doesn't sell you anything, they just sell you!"
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post #8 of 25
Funny they're using using so many Macs...the only reason I passed over VT was the tablet-PC requirement for engineering students.
post #9 of 25
if part of the purpose is to research power efficiency, how about hooking
up some kind of heat exchanger and creating electricity from all the
generated heat?
post #10 of 25
I need this just for my porn!
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2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

I need this just for my porn!

A Mac Pro "quickie"?
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post #12 of 25
If you have an equation for your energy exchanger give it to me... I'll re-package the equation and sell it to Steve Ballmer(SB) telling him he can market it as a iPhone 3G battery charger.

BTW, of he 5 MS OS's in the Top 500 none are XP or Vista. So the ratio is 100 to 1. The 30 to 1 in PC's OS's does not look so bad, it shouldn't take too long to get to 15-15 (in the US about 2013).

Also note: E=MC2


Mac 128k (and a 4 year-old company Sprint cell phone). My wife emailed me and said the bank transfer for the $199 must be lost since her bank uses Vista.
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by EyeNsteinNo View Post

BTW, of he 5 MS OS's in the Top 500 none are XP or Vista.

It is still Windows. Even if it's a modified version of what's available at the store. Windows Server 2003 is basically a server version of XP, kind of no-frills. I wouldn't be surprised if that HPC 2008 is based on Vista but without so much of the consumer crap.
post #14 of 25
I don't the operating system makes any difference to 8CoreWhore unless the supercomputer crashes when trying to open 16,384 pics.
post #15 of 25
Your quote "Funny they're using using so many Macs...the only reason I passed over VT was the tablet-PC requirement for engineering students."

The college I went to had a similar requirement, we engineering students had to buy a certain manufacturer and model number for a "slide-rule". Then calculators came a-long before computers. I didn't pass that college up because of the extra 20 bucks for the slide-rule. Then 1984 came along, I was thinking about going back to school but idea of a grandpa toting a computer to class with a MOUSE was unheard of. They only accepted green screens and a key-board with arrows.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royboy View Post

A Mac Pro "quickie"?

or Mac Pro mini

Seriously, I hope this is the product transition we see in the fall...
post #17 of 25
Hey, its the G4 Cube clad in metal! Sweet!

Though, it would be cool, but is it in mATX form? Could we swap out our processors, or better yet, HDs, Disk Drives, and Graphics Cards (without voiding warranty)? That would make it the Mac Pro mini we all want! Knowing Apple... they'd stay away from the ATX form factor. As long as the thing is upgradable, I don't think any of us would care!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post

or Mac Pro mini

Seriously, I hope this is the product transition we see in the fall...
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post #18 of 25
Someone should lash together all of these supercomputers... maybe then they could figure out how to do "cut 'n' paste" on the iPhone.

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GOA

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GOA

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post #19 of 25
Very interesting that they found it more cost effective to use Mac Pro towers vs. Xeon Xserves.

Much more so when you consider that in 2004 they migrated System X away from 1,100 dual 2GHz PowerMac G5 towers to 1,100 dual Xserve G5's. Even though the computing power was about the same, they said it was worth replacing all 1,100 machines (less than a year after installing them) because the Xserves would use less power and take 1/3 the space.

This time around, identically configured Xeon Xserves are available from the start, yet they decided to go with the towers instead! I wonder if it would have made a difference if Apple still offered an Xserve cluster node.

I understand that Xserves have much higher power density, due to their smaller volume. Normally, this is considered highly desirable in a data center, but you could always reduce the overall density by spreading the machines out more. I would have also thought the Lights Out Management (and all the extra sensors that it supports) would be a big plus (but perhaps doesn't play with InfiniBand). But if they really need the extra PCI Express slot…
post #20 of 25
I would love to have this comp hooked up to ma house, you could use like 10 30' cinamar desplays and have like 8 games runnng and and posting on AI and watchng a dvd. What a computer, and I'm saving up for a mac pro but I'll see wht they bring out this fall

Cheers AP
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post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

It is still Windows. Even if it's a modified version of what's available at the store. Windows Server 2003 is basically a server version of XP, kind of no-frills. I wouldn't be surprised if that HPC 2008 is based on Vista but without so much of the consumer crap.

Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and Windows HPC 2008. I can't imagine what the licensing fees to run one of those on a supercomputer are. But I guess the places that run those clusters don't care.
post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and Windows HPC 2008. I can't imagine what the licensing fees to run one of those on a supercomputer are. But I guess the places that run those clusters don't care.

It's also possible that they got a good discount due to volume, a site license or for promotion. Even if they didn't, it doesn't mean it's as simple as. It's possible that they did factor it in but found that other considerations were more important. The one sysadmin that I know said that the cost of software isn't a big factor in the overall cost of operation of a server.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The Macs are likewise said to be fundamentally less expensive for the same level of performance than similar systems from Apple's competitors.

"The Mac Pros are highly competitive even against building a white box off the cheapest prices," the researcher notes.

Does anyone know how this came to be?

The 8-core HP workstation I tried to hone down and customize on their website came out to $4000 when I added the same 5400 Harpertown ~2.8GHz procs and 2GB of memory -- but it comes with an 80GB drive, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard and a DVD-ROM.

Where did this crazy price advantage come from?
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by probably View Post

Does anyone know how this came to be?

The 8-core HP workstation I tried to hone down and customize on their website came out to $4000 when I added the same 5400 Harpertown ~2.8GHz procs and 2GB of memory -- but it comes with an 80GB drive, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard and a DVD-ROM.

Where did this crazy price advantage come from?

HP and Dell sell to the low end - the cheapest possible $399 towers and laptops. Since they make nothing off of that, their high-ends have extremely high margins to make up for it.

Apple uses a different model and does not try to compete in the low end. As a result, their margins are more comparable across the product line. They don't have to price the Mac Pro at $5000 to make up for the $399 laptop whose profit is eaten up the first time the dweeb who bought it calls in for tech support.

The Xeons are very expensive - so it could also be that Apple gets a good deal from Intel since they are a new customer.
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post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by probably View Post

Does anyone know how this came to be?

The 8-core HP workstation I tried to hone down and customize on their website came out to $4000 when I added the same 5400 Harpertown ~2.8GHz procs and 2GB of memory -- but it comes with an 80GB drive, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard and a DVD-ROM.

Where did this crazy price advantage come from?

Well, first of all, even at standard institution pricing the prices they see and you see are different. When I drop into my dell premier account to set up quotes for work they are nowhere near the consumer prices ('least on poweredge/powervault hardware). Likewise, my prices on switches from HP are a bit different than the consumer price (I use procurve when I can).

That said, for a system this expensive, I'd sure above and beyond that apple cut them a sweet deal, apple has a vested interest in maintaining a presence on the top500.
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MBP (15, 2.33, 3GB,10.6/win/lin on 250GB)
MP (3,1 oct 2.8, 10GB. 10.6 on 4x1TB RAID10, Win/Lin on 1x2TB, 2407WFP on 1x5770 + 2xSamsung 910t on 1xGT120)
also a lot of other systems :-p
I met a...
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