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Technology (Apple) Hardware Technology

Earth Simulator, G5 Cluster Drop In 'Top 500' List 343

daveschroeder writes "The November Top 500 supercomputer list has been published at SC2004. Topping the charts is IBM and the US Department of Energy's 'BlueGene/L DD2' beta system, at 70.72 TFlops, followed by NASA's 'Columbia' at 51.87.TFlops. For the first time in several publications of this list, Japan's Earth Simulator is no longer in the number one slot, falling to third. Virginia Tech's 'System X' Xserve G5 cluster, while 20% faster than the original cluster that debuted at number 3 last November, has fallen to number 7 due to the new entries, but remains the fastest supercomputer at an academic institution. Here's an excellent cost comparison (Google cache) of the top machines ('System X' is significantly cheaper than anything else in the top 20, not to mention cheaper than many things far below it in performance)."
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Earth Simulator, G5 Cluster Drop In 'Top 500' List

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  • super computations? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:13AM (#10763232) Homepage Journal
    Earth Simulator spent a while at the top of the list - that's a lot of TFLOPs under the curve - a lot of seconds. What did it accomplish while it was king of the hill? How much Earth was simulated?
  • Erm ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phoxix ( 161744 ) * on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:15AM (#10763243)
    What exactly did the Big Mac do anyways ?

    I can assume it was put to some sort of use. But I honestly get the feeling it was more to have fun, and look cool (which means more bling bling from sponsors, alumni, etc)

    Sunny Dubey
  • by MrMartini ( 824959 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:18AM (#10763254)
    I get a kick out of the fact that System X runs Mac OS X.

    Only with Mac OS X can you get the combination of commercial software (such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop), user friendliness, no known viruses, best available security, and stability/scalability suitable for world-class superclusters.
  • Re:Pizza arguments (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:21AM (#10763273)
    I'm sure it would be similar to any Linux cluster in the top 10; there's no reason to believe it should be any different or require significantly different levels of system administration and maintenance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:21AM (#10763274)
    Don't discount infiniband... it has one of the lowest internode latencies available (quadrics has a lower latency, but lower max bandwidth). So if an OS that supported multi-machine spanning was used in a senario like VA tech, you'd be dead wrong. The hardware is there, just not the software, just not yet.
  • power costs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainPinko ( 753849 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:32AM (#10763332)
    adminstration and maintenance similar perhaps... but what about power?a few watts per core adds to a lot more heat PLUS the cost of cooling. i think it would be interesting if they printed a FLOP/$ per annum for each of the top 500. the cost of acquisition being spread evenly over the lifetime of the cluster.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:46AM (#10763400)

    Now Apple markets good computers. Tend to be on the expensive side, but they are usually high quality.

    The Power970 is decent enough in itself. The opteron is more powerfull, but is also much more energy hungry. The Intel Itanium is nice but it's very expensive. etc etc

    But what is this worship of Apple? It makes no sense.

    Story 1: Earth simulator.. blah blah blah., but Mac cluster!

    Story 2: SGI supercluster.... blah blahblah, But Mac cluster!

    Story 3: Blue Gene cluster, 65000+ cpus... blah blah blah, but Mac cluster!

    Realy? Who gives a fvck about the 7th place computer, and who gives a damn about cost analysis at this point? What about the Top5?

    Did you know that Blue Gene is PowerPC?
    Did you know that Linux now runs the majority of top super computers...

    Did you know that Blue Gene proccessors only run a 700mhz??!!!

    Did you know that #4 is 3564 Power970's running at 2.2 ghz? And that beats out 4000+ Intanium2's running at 1.7ghz?

    This is a Geek site.. what about OSes?
    By ranking:
    1. Linux, 2. Linux, 3. Unix, 4. Linux, 5. Linux, 6. Unix, 7. OS X, 8. Linux, 9. Unix, 10. Linux (most powerfull x86 btw), 11. Unix, 12. Unix, 13. Linux, 14. ?, 15. Linux, 16. Linux, 17. Linux, 18. Linux, 19. Linux, 20. Unix.

    Were is the most powerfull Windows computer? Well there is one cluster that is probably still on the top500. I dare you to find it, though. It's probably around #200 or #300, which is stil freaking fast.

    Ok, So the big Mac is still #7. That's great, but there are 6 wonderfull computers that have all sorts of great technology that your completely ignoring because Apple wets your pants.

    Did you know that Blue Gene will eventually have over 65,000 proccessors??
  • Only on Slashdot (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @01:47AM (#10763406)
    Only on Slashdot would the article be about the G5 cluster instead of about the new, faster machines. In 3 years, when the VT cluster drops to #400, will you still be posting "news" about how pretty and how adorable and how appley it is...?

    Can we please restrict the Apple ads to the banner? Thank you.
  • by monkeyboy87 ( 619098 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @02:20AM (#10763559)
    Tech has a long tradition of this. We weren't allowed to come near the IBM 3090 (a near super computer in the late '80's) when I was an undergrad there either.

    it was housed in the CRC about 1 mile off campus in those days. Probably freed up the room for the cluster when they decomissioned the old 3090 behemoth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @02:40AM (#10763632)
    I think it is interesting that 11% of the top 500 are Power architecture, and 64% of the top 500 are intel based systems. Yet 50% of the top 10 are Power architecture and only 20% of the top 10 are intel architecture. Also interesting is that the Power based systems seem to have twice the Mflop/dollar ratio over the intel systems.

    That's because x86 is a horrible architecture. On top of that, x86 instructions are translated into microcode before they're executed, so you end up with an unknown (maybe you could ask the folks at Intergraph about it) architecture emulating a crappy architecture in hardware. Better architectures exist (ARM, MIPS, POWER, 68000, PA-RISC, toy architectures used in introductory computer architecture classes, everything else), but Intel won out in the marketplace. You can still get better chips, but you pay more and have less support.

    That's why you'd be better off investing in AMD over Intel. AMD hit upon what Intel should've done years ago. The x86-64, for those who don't know, supports x86 binaries as well as its own new architecture. Think of it like an x86 chip with the underlying hardware exposed. If Intel had exposed the hardware that x86 instructions get translated to, they'd have had a clear upgrade path instead of having to dork off x86 out of the blue. AMD embraced and extended x86, and marginalized its future without doing any actual damage to it or x86 users. It's flat out genius.

    In the meantime, almost anything performs better than x86, and with less power consumption. It makes those mini-ITX boards look like jokes, because instead of engineering a low powered MIPS board/processor, the VIA folks did another x86. It may have been good from a business point, but it's horrible from an engineering standpoint, and that sums up Intel and x86 fairly nicely.
  • Re:Pizza arguments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adiposity ( 684943 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @03:19AM (#10763755)
    Well, I'm not going to disagree with anything you've posted here, but are we sure Apple charged these people anywhere near full price for the hardware? Just a question, I don't actually know the answer.

  • Software (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mardak ( 795862 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @03:46AM (#10763859)
    It's not just about how fast the systems perform in linpack. The machines should be calculating something useful, and if you feed it inefficient code, it'll be going nowhere fast.

    Apple has created software development packages specifically designed for their G5's with optimized code for the 64bit architecture such as complex math functions.

    So not only is Apple providing a cheaper and power efficient system for academic institutes, they make it easier for professors and assistants to create the software to run on those clusters.
  • by joib ( 70841 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @04:47AM (#10764059)
    The cost he quotes for the Blue Gene ($200 million) was the cost of some government contract that included BG/L, ASCI Purple (a huge cluster of POWER5 servers) and some R&D as well.

    Recently IBM announced their commercial prices for BG machines (see e.g. or Prices start at $1.5 million (1 fully equipped cabinet). Using this price and published linpack figures one arrives at about 2.9 Mflop/s/$, compared to the maximum value of 2.2 Mflop/s/$ he quotes for the best apple system.

    Add in the fact that the BG uses much less space and power than a comparable xserve cluster, that it has a faster and lower latency network, and we have a winner.
  • Re:need? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @05:55AM (#10764236)
    Your key mistake here is your use of the word "needs". The data I've seen indicates that the G5 draws an equivalent amount of power as comparable Intel and AMD systems. Also, the G5's in the x-servs are air cooled. I think they mostly liquid cool the dual 2.5 Ghz G5 just to keep the noise down.

    uh-huh. If G5 runs so cool, then surely they could have kept the original cooling-system for the 2.5GHz model, instead of going for an complicated liquid-cooling system? Really, why did they move from heatsink/fan to liquid-cooling? AFAIK the original G5's were already quiet. And looking at reviews such as this seems to suggest that the G5 does indeed run very hot. []

    And looking here and [] here [] I can see this:

    2.5GHz G5: 75-85C during load
    2.2GHz Opteron: 48C during load

    G5 runs cooler? Hardly.
  • Re:Pizza arguments (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @06:23AM (#10764315)
    The XServe's keep track of their fans and internal temperature, automatically letting the admin know when a machine is GOING TO FAIL,

    Huh? Very few of all the possible faults in a computer have any kind of temperature change associated with them. When a memory stick, a HD, a CPU, a system chip, a connector fails, you don't get any overheating. (You may get a slight temp decrease after the component has failed and stopped consuming power.)

    Your scenario only applies to failing fans and heatsinks prying themselves loose... not very common occurrences.

    Sorry, but you have bought into some not very tech-savvy information somewhere.

    BTW, it has been establisehd in every discussion here and in specialised hardwarwe sites that the power draw of a 2 GHz G5 is on par with a 2 GHz K8. This comparison is made harder by IBM not readily giving out the max power but a "typical" power, but valid estimations have been achieved nevertheless.

    There is a reason why the 2.5 GHz G5 couldn't be air-cooled quietly. (It could have been air-cooled, but not quietly. I have a 2.4 GHz Athlon 64 system that is whisper quiet with a Zalman CNPS7000-AlCU at 1300 rpm and two 120mm case fans at 1600 rpm. Go figure.)

    IBM is a fabulous foundry, but so has AMD been recently (avoiding most of Intel's 90 nm problems, for instance). The 970FX is just a really good processor based on a damn good architecture, not an engineering miracle.

  • Re:funny or funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @08:23AM (#10764691) Journal
    I think cheap clusters will be old news in a year or two. IBM's Blue Gene designs are so space efficient, I think they will shift the whole market in that direction.
  • Re:Pizza arguments (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @09:18AM (#10764974)

    I have a question. Can you point us to any scientific work actually performed on System X? I haven't been able to find anything concrete, and I know for a fact that for some time there can't have been any science done after the first round of benchmarks, since they quite literally took the whole thing apart and replaced it with completely different machines. This doesn't sound like the sort of thing anyone who cares about "cost of ownership" would do.

    I love the "and now" it's being used for real scientific work. A full year after it was installed. What the hell took them so long? Can't have been because it was a first of a kind machine - so is the current #2, Columbia. The Altix 3000 BX line was announced only last week, and the new Itanium 2/9M CPUs that power it were formally launched by Intel earlier today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @10:01AM (#10765337)
    Recently IBM announced their commercial prices for BG machines (see e.g. or Prices start at $1.5 million (1 fully equipped cabinet). Using this price and published linpack figures one arrives at about 2.9 Mflop/s/$, compared to the maximum value of 2.2 Mflop/s/$ he quotes for the best apple system.
    Actually, that 2.2MFLOP/s/$ figure for VT's cluster isn't the best for an apple XServe based system. The University of Maine built a 512 CPU cluster of XServes for $680K, or 3.012MFLOP/s/$, according to the price comparison's chart, edging out a BlueGene cabinet.

    Of course, now I get to be flamed by a bunch of mac haters who think pointing out a factual error in your statement means I don't know anything else about clustering and will blindly chose a mac above all others.... *sigh*
  • by Sir_Ahzz ( 828542 ) <{ahzz} {at} {}> on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @10:37AM (#10765611)
    THat's the big question. IF theywere, then it's an obvious win for macs. But something tells me that they aren't. (note the dates for the athlons are OLD by a year or more than the "freshly upgraded" G5*s.) Anyone care to adjust the system prices based on equivilant date costs for the whitebox systems and re-calculate that table? I'd be interested to see how close the athlon64 CPUs come now. Lies, damned lies and statistics.....
  • Re:Pizza arguments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LinuxHam ( 52232 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @12:41PM (#10766743) Homepage Journal
    The XServe's keep track of their fans and internal temperature, automatically letting the admin know when a machine is GOING TO FAIL and preemptively swap out faulty components before they cause serious damage to the systems

    Just like the IBM xSeries servers I'm deploying right now. Our servers automatically order replacement components if/when components fail. This includes CPUs, memory, fans, hard drives.. just about anything. IBM big boxes have been doing this for decades, and distributed systems for a number of years now. Don't get too excited.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2004 @12:43PM (#10766763)
    I am at SC04, there are a lot of people here. And most of them probably don't belong to a fantasy football league. This is the next best thing.

    I'll trade a SGI for 2 crays.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner