Mac supercomputer speeds up

The rebuilt version of a Virginia Tech supercomputer running Power Mac G5 chips runs 20 percent faster than the original.

A Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University supercomputer using G5 processors now operates at 12.25 teraflops.

University officials announced today that the school's rebuilt System X cluster, which is powered by G5 chips designed for Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac computers, now operates at 12.25 teraflops, making it the most powerful computer running at an academic institution, although at least three faster machines operate at government institutions.

Much of System X's appeal is its relatively low cost. Vector-based supercomputers used by organizations such as Energy Department laboratories and weather researchers cost tens of millions of dollars, but rebuilding System X with 50 additional nodes cost about $600,000. The Virginia Tech machine originally cost $5.2 million to build.

University officials plan to move the cluster of Power Mac G5 desktop computers to Apple''s new Xserve G5 in January 2005. The Xserve G5 chip can deliver more than 18 gigaflops of peak processing power per system and features the same PowerPC G5, 64-bit processor used in Virginia Tech's original cluster of 1,100 Power Mac G5s.

The original System X operated at 10.28 teraflops for the official records, but its peak theoretical performance was rated at 17.7 teraflops.

The supercomputer is part of the university's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. The institute fosters multidisciplinary, large research projects. Many difficult problems in science and engineering that can only be solved by a powerful supercomputer meet these criteria.

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