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Apple tapped for Defense Dept. research supercomputer

The MACH 5 could be the second-fastest supercomputer in the world

By Robert McMillan
June 22, 2004 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Apple Computer Inc. took a step forward and a step backward yesterday in its quest to prove itself a viable player in the world of high-performance computing.
The computer vendor announced a deal with U.S. Army contractor Colsa Corp. to build a 1,566-node supercomputer that's expected to be capable of as many as 25 trillion floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS), according to Colsa.
Called MACH 5 (Multiple Advanced Computers for Hypersonic Research), the $5.8 million system is designed to do aero-thermodynamic modeling for the Army's Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center. It's expected to be operational by November and, if it were benchmarked today, would rank just behind the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center's $350 million Earth Simulator, Colsa said. That hardware is capable of 35.9TFLOPS.
At the same time, an Apple-based supercomputer at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University failed to appear on a revised version of the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers published yesterday, leaving Apple unrepresented (see story). The 1,100-node supercomputer ranked third on the list last November (see story),
Virginia Tech, which was Apple's first entry into the top echelons of the world's supercomputers, was unable to submit a benchmark because it's in the process of building a new supercomputer based on Apple's latest rack-mounted server, the Xserve G5, according to Alex Grossman, director of server and storage hardware at Apple.
Virginia Tech announced plans to migrate its supercomputer to the Xserve G5 in January, just months after it was built. The university has subsequently dismantled its original system (see story), which was based on the desktop Power Mac G5 system, Grossman said.
The Xserve G5 experienced some shipping delays earlier this year, but the dual-processor systems that Virginia Tech plans to use have been shipping in volume since April, Grossman said.
"We have a lot more customers to come that will be on the Top500 list, we believe," Grossman said.
One such customer will be Colsa, which expects to run the Top500's Linpack benchmark on the MACH 5 in time for the November list, according to Antony DiRienzo, executive vice president at the Huntsville, Ala.-based company. Colsa will take its first truckload of 300 dual-processor Xserve G5 systems next week, DiRienzo said.
The Virginia Tech system has attracted considerable media attention, but some supercomputer users say that Apple has yet to prove that its computers can do more in high-performance computing than run benchmarks.
"All I've seen are Linpack benchmarks, and that's not why we buy computers," said Scott Studham, manager of computer operations at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Molecular

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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