Apple continues modest move into clusters

Though Apple doesn't fancy itself a high-performance computing giant, the company says it's making some headway in regard to both supercomputers and smaller-scale clusters.

The Mac maker's machines made a surprise leap into the upper reaches of the supercomputing realm last year, when researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University used 1,100 Power Mac G5s to create a cluster that eventually ranked No. 3 on the list of the top 500 supercomputers. The system was built for just more than $5 million, compared with the hundreds or tens of millions spent to put together its nearest competitors.

Now, Apple is taking some initial steps to make it easier for others to group together clusters of Macs. The company quietly announced on Tuesday a test version of a program called Xgrid, which allows departments to more easily create a grid of Macs. The software is already being tested at NASA, Genentech, Simon Fraser University, Reed College and Virginia Tech. Technical computing clusters such as the Virginia Tech system typically consist of numerous identical, dedicated servers. Grid software extends to a broader pool of computers, often including a wide variety of computing systems, such as desktop machines, that often have spare processing capacity. The other step Apple took Tuesday was adding the G5 chip to its Xserve rack-mounted server. Since it didn't have that option, Virginia Tech had to create its supercomputer from a collection of Power Mac G5 desktop towers.

News source: C|Net

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