New 324-Node Mac Pro Cluster In The Works At Va Tech

Virginia Tech is building another Mac-based supercomputer, this time out of Mac Pros. According to ArsTechnica, Virginia Tech's Center for High-End Computing System is building a new cluster using 324 Mac Pro towers that will have a theoretical computing capacity of 29 teraflops.

The system will be used to study two main areas: power-aware software systems that can adjust performance automatically to maximize efficiency, and distributed shared memory systems that can run existing threaded code on high-performance clusters "as if they were scaled up versions of multi-core desktops."

Virginia Tech made headlines in 2003 when they assembled a cost-efficient supercomputer named System X out of Power Mac G5s. System X ranked as the third fastest supercomputer in the 22nd edition of the of the Top 500 list, performing at over 10 teraflops. The system was upgraded to 2.3 GHz Xserve G5s approximately a year later. Ars notes that if System X were to be upgraded to current generation Xserves, the result would be a "8800-core monster that could push as much as 100 Tflopsat least in theory coming close to Top 10 territory."

The school is using Mac Pros instead of Xserves because Xserves would require more robust cooling requirements; System X uses a hybrid liquid and forced air system whereas the Mac Pro cluster would only require a conventional air-cooled room. Also, the additional PCI Express 2.0 slots provided by the Mac Pro were deemed desirable for use in other research projects.

Correction: The System X cooling system is not located in a separate building.

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