To Quad or not to Quad ~ that is the question

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
MOSR aside, I have thought that the Quad Powermac is a direction that Apple should have taken since the G4 7410 around 1999.



It was at the height of the 500 MHz speed stall that made me think that this was the next logical step for Apple to remain competitive with the Wintel MHz gap. A search for "quad G4" will show that several vendors actually offered 7410 G4s in a four way configuration (mostly for DSP applications).



The DayStar Genesis MP offered a four processor (604e's) box before Apple pulled the plug on the clones. This advancement in the platform, leaving Apple's top end in the dust, may have been instrumental in the clones demise.



But that was then, and this is now. If Apple didn't jump on this concept then (when they really needed it) why would they bother now? More importatantly, would a quad Powermac (xStation?) sell, if so, to whom?



I have my own ideas about this (who would buy such an Apple) but would like to hear from other posters about the practicality and possibility of Apple going this direction.



Any thoughts?



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    I could see xServe having quad option at some point but I'm not sure a desktop machine would have enough tangible benefit to make it worth the effort. Imagine the cooling required or how much larger they would have to make the case.
  • Reply 2 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Bancho

    ... Imagine the cooling required or how much larger they would have to make the case.



    The 2.5 Powermac has already solved the cooling requirement. A second pump would not even be required, just add more water (and perhaps a larger radiator).



    The current case is also quite capable of handling the extra processors, although an internal RAID with at least four drives would seem to be a needed upgrade for a killer xStation.



    G5 Jam



    "... enough tangible benefit" ??? ~ If you were running FCP, Motion, and Shake in a professional setting dropping $10K on an xStation would be a no brainer. A limited audience to be sure, but that particular niche would buy into a quad from day one.
  • Reply 3 of 51
    programmerprogrammer Posts: 3,409member
    The quad G4 didn't make sense because of the shared bus -- one G4 could max out the bus using AltiVec (or even without using it in some cases), so two was about the practical limit. Four just wouldn't have been cost effective.



    The G5 solves this by giving each processor its own FSB. The problem with this approach is that each processor needs its own FSB port on the system controller, so they need a new system controller to support a quad system. I don't think we'll see quad until we get dual core chips (SMT doesn't count).
  • Reply 4 of 51
    auroraaurora Posts: 1,142member
    Hate to mention this but whats the point when we have machines like a dual 2.5 G5? Apple now has power & speed. Something i could never say in the G4 years . any of the dual G5s are monsters in my opinion. no point in going 4 cpu's when you look at costs etc. Look at what the dual G5s can do vs a dual G4 from about a year ago (1.42 dual G4) sure they could do it if they wanted but 2 G5s at 2.5 would hammer 4 G4s at 1.5 and the cost benefit does go down as mention.
  • Reply 5 of 51
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Aphelion

    The 2.5 Powermac has already solved the cooling requirement. A second pump would not even be required, just add more water (and perhaps a larger radiator).



    The current case is also quite capable of handling the extra processors, although an internal RAID with at least four drives would seem to be a needed upgrade for a killer xStation.



    G5 Jam



    "... enough tangible benefit" ??? ~ If you were running FCP, Motion, and Shake in a professional setting dropping $10K on an xStation would be a no brainer. A limited audience to be sure, but that particular niche would buy into a quad from day one.




    I am sure there are people who *could* use the power but in a professional environment this processing can (and almost always *is*) also be handled by servers. Servers are a more economical and can benefit multiple users where your xStation benefits only the primary user. Few if any professionals have all the power sitting right on their own desk.
  • Reply 6 of 51
    rolorolo Posts: 686member
    A quad G5 system is plausible and even desirable for certain things like high end video, film production, and scientific research. I can imagine a G5 with the same height but twice as wide. Side doors on both sides. Two CPUs and 3 PCI Express slots on each side. 4 HD bays and two optical bays. Just a thought.
  • Reply 7 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Programmer

    ... The problem with this approach is that each processor needs its own FSB port on the system controller, so they need a new system controller to support a quad system. I don't think we'll see quad until we get dual core chips (SMT doesn't count).



    Programmer, Would hypertransport 2 help? Could four G5's not be grouped in pairs to share the two FSB's? Of course dual core processors will be called "quads" if Apple continues to offer "duals".



    I think they need more power for their pro digital apps and they need it now. The dual 2.5's will indeed be very fast, but so are dual Opterons. Apple needs to assert themselves in this niche and a four-way xStation would do the trick.



    ...
  • Reply 8 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Bancho

    ... in a professional environment this processing can (and almost always *is*) also be handled by servers. Servers are a more economical and can benefit multiple users where your xStation benefits only the primary user. Few if any professionals have all the power sitting right on their own desk.



    Xgrid



    Quote:

    Xgrid turns a group of Macs into a supercomputer, so they can work on problems greater than each individually could solve. You can let Xgrid operate in screensaver mode, so whenever you aren?t working, your Mac can crunch away at some data set. Or if you have a group of Macs dedicated to the task, Xgrid makes it easy to set up a cluster that works around the clock, every day of the year



    Could Xgrid help to change this "power on the server" thinking?



    ...
  • Reply 9 of 51
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Aphelion

    Xgrid







    Could Xgrid help to change this "power on the server" thinking?



    ...




    Sure, but then why would you still want to pay for a quad when you could put more duals on people's desks



    I know I'm being contrary for the sake of it to some extent but I think efforts could be better spent shoring up other portions of Apple's product line before concentrating on an admitted niche.



    I've worked on Sun boxes for the last 10 years and know all the fun that having a bunch of processors can provide. Still I think the first you will see of QUads will be dual cores as programmer suggested. It's much simpler and easier on Apple's bottom line.
  • Reply 10 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Bancho

    Sure, but then why would you still want to pay for a quad when you could put more duals on people's desks



    To give each workstation more POWER, and each worker more productivity. What costs more, top level people, or top level workstations?



    Quote:

    ... I think efforts could be better spent shoring up other portions of Apple's product line before concentrating on an admitted niche.



    The money and effort to "shore up" the iMac has been done, we'll all see how successful this has been at Paris. The Powermac 2.5 is also "shored up", what's next to work on?



    Quote:

    ... I think the first you will see of QUads will be dual cores as programmer suggested. It's much simpler and easier on Apple's bottom line.



    You and Programmer are most likely correct, I'm just trying to "Think Different".



    ...
  • Reply 11 of 51
    bigcbigc Posts: 1,224member
    I'd say Quad is BS, a Dual Core-Dual Processor is more likely and MOSR can say I told you so...



    nuthin to see here move along...
  • Reply 12 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    To Quad or not to Quad, that is the question



    No BS is involved, just a discussion on what might Apple do to monopolize on the high end applications that they are offering. I think it could be considered a "given" that dual core Powermacs will be "quads" but the question I pose is should they jump ahead of that unknown release date (for dual cores) with a four processor Xstation.



    Oh, and don't let the door hit you on the way out of this discussion, Bigc, if you don't want to partcipate, by all means, move along.



    ...
  • Reply 13 of 51
    oldmacfanoldmacfan Posts: 501member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Bancho

    Sure, but then why would you still want to pay for a quad when you could put more duals on people's desks



    I know I'm being contrary for the sake of it to some extent but I think efforts could be better spent shoring up other portions of Apple's product line before concentrating on an admitted niche.



    I've worked on Sun boxes for the last 10 years and know all the fun that having a bunch of processors can provide. Still I think the first you will see of QUads will be dual cores as programmer suggested. It's much simpler and easier on Apple's bottom line.




    What a Quad box gives Apple is what AMD, Intel, and M$ can't give outside of a server box with a server OS. A $6,000 starter work station that can be a stand alone machine or the conductor of an orchestra of cluster nodes or even multiple cluster nodes.
  • Reply 14 of 51
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by oldmacfan

    What a Quad box gives Apple is what AMD, Intel, and M$ can't give outside of a server box with a server OS. A $6,000 starter work station that can be a stand alone machine or the conductor of an orchestra of cluster nodes or even multiple cluster nodes.



    Ok, I accept that. I think it could be a tough sell though. Imagine the reality of a quad processor machine. The cooling system in the dual 2.5 is designed to sink a certain amount of heat and we are going to double that. The power supply is designed to produce a certain amount of power and we are increasing that by a fair amount.



    - Is this thing intended to sit on a desk or near it? If so it needs cooling sufficient to keep the machine running well *and* stay quiet.



    - The case will need to increase in size and it is no small thing as it is.



    I am sure that a fair amount of engineering and development will have to go into something like this.



    Some people will *still* want it and use every ounce of the power it provides. That is a lot of power and there are already ways to put that much power together in Apple's current line-up depending on your needs. Having such a flagship machine would be nice and I can't deny that.



    Some people (not saying anyone here in particular) will want Apple to build it for the "boner-factor" and never, ever, ever consider to buy one. They only want it to be produced so the can tell their PC friends to kiss their ass. Great. That helps Apple a bunch.



    ps - I really would not mind at all to see Apple announce something like this. I would also like to hear that they are selling by the truckload to <insert random big company here>...
  • Reply 15 of 51
    onlookeronlooker Posts: 5,252member
    I just don't see it happening. A Dual, Dual Core processor system is inevitable, but this sounds far too expensive.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,268member
    Hell I'm game.



    Who knows maybe Apple's redesigning the memory controller to support more than two CPU. Perhaps the liquid cooling allows for a Apple to shoehorn in two more procs without turning the G5 into an inferno.



    You really do have to wonder why Tiger now has implicit support for more than 2 CPUs. SMT is one answer but a full Quad system could the the other. If IBM gets caught up on yields I could see Apple making a Quad system out of the chip they have the most supply of. That could be a Quad 2Ghz system or slightly faster. Xgrid is nice but it's not going to provide the full on burst that two more CPUs would give. Not every app can utilize Xgrid but EVERY apps can utilize quads.



    Audio people would love it. Running CPU hungry plugins on more and more tracks is the desire. Video people would love faster two pass MPEG2 compression.



    The market is there..the only question remains "is this market big enough for Apple to actually build the computers?"



    I think so.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    aphelionaphelion Posts: 736member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Bancho

    ... The cooling system in the dual 2.5 is designed to sink a certain amount of heat and we are going to double that... Is this thing intended to sit on a desk or near it? If so it needs cooling sufficient to keep the machine running well *and* stay quiet.



    Bancho, as I said above (and you quoted): "The 2.5 Powermac has already solved the cooling requirement. A second pump would not even be required, just add more water (and perhaps a larger radiator)."



    The cooling system in the new 2.5's is a new paradigm for cooling (although used successfully for years by over-clockers). Need more cooling? Just add water! No change in noise level would be expected over the current set-up.





    Quote:

    "The power supply is designed to produce a certain amount of power and we are increasing that by a fair amount."



    You do have a point there, but a bigger (in wattage) power supply is hardly an impediment for Apple's engineers.



    Quote:

    "... They only want it to be produced so the can tell their PC friends to kiss their ass. Great. That helps Apple a bunch.



    ps - I really would not mind at all to see Apple announce something like this. I would also like to hear that they are selling by the truckload to <insert random big company here>...



    << Pixar >>>



    Actually for most of us here, an Xstation would be extreme overkill. The boner factor for our PC using "friends" should not be ignored, and just think of our "enemies" !!! (those that continually make sport of our platform of choice, usually based on the GHz it produces). The boner factor in this instance is a matter of placement.



    ...
  • Reply 18 of 51
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,785member
    This is certainly one avenue that Apple could follow and most likely will follow. However the idea that it would be expensive in my mind is wrong. It is simply a matter of IBM and Apple committing to producing the processor and selling it in a large enough volume to control costs.



    Lets face it with 90nm and smaller technologies it iw very easy to produce a processor that is dual core and still smaller than the orignal 970. Price isn't an issue, commitmant to manufacture at a practical level is. One way for Apple to address the volume issue would be to use a variant of the processor in the iMac replacement. That would take the iMac to SMP on a dual core chip and provide the volume part of the equation for cost control.



    Dave





    Quote:

    Originally posted by onlooker

    I just don't see it happening. A Dual, Dual Core processor system is inevitable, but this sounds far too expensive.



  • Reply 19 of 51
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Aphelion

    Bancho, as I said above (and you quoted): "The 2.5 Powermac has already solved the cooling requirement. A second pump would not even be required, just add more water (and perhaps a larger radiator)."



    The cooling system in the new 2.5's is a new paradigm for cooling (although used successfully for years by over-clockers). Need more cooling? Just add water! No change in noise level would be expected over the current set-up.





    Well, the cooling requirement for keeping 2 2.5GHz processors happy is solved.



    I don't know enough to say how much extra heat load the system can take before needing to beef up the radiator more and though I know some would say they don't care about fan noise, Apple will strive to make it super quiet with 43 ultraquiet fans and everything that entails
  • Reply 20 of 51
    boogabooga Posts: 1,077member
    So there are 3 scenarios in which the OS, and anyone trying out a "pre-release" machine, will see a "4 processor" Mac:

    1. The machine actually has 4 CPU chips.

    2. The machine has two dual-core chips, putting 4 cores on 2 pieces of silicon.

    3. The machine has 2 Hyperthreading CPUs.



    In any of the above situations, the OS will treat it as 4 processors. So even if MOSR has some inside information, they could easily be mistaken as to the exact nature of the "quad". I have no doubt that Apple, though, would call any of the above machines "quad" for marketing purposes.



    Considering bus saturation, diminishing returns on SMP, and lack of pervasive multithreading in many Mac apps, unfortunately the performance probably wouldn't be too different between the above 3 scenarios in most situations. Given that #3 would be far, far cheaper, that's what I'd guess Apple would do.
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