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Virginia Tech Announces Supercomputer Plans 419

Posted by pudge
from the i-got-dibs-when-they-are-done-with-it dept.
CousinVinnie writes "Previously noted in this Slashdot story, the administration of Virginia Tech has announced they're puchasing 1100 G5's (another story) in hopes to build a top-10 supercomputer by October 1. Tech will be spending $5.2 million over five years on the project, which should help it pull in more research money." Maybe VT can use the new computers to beef up their web site.
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Virginia Tech Announces Supercomputer Plans

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  • by WinterSolstice (223271) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:58PM (#6861447)
    Does anyone know who else was considered for this contract? I'd love to see the arguments for the different platforms!

    -WS
    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:05PM (#6861535) Homepage Journal
      Itanium: er, um, we have a new architecture! I think RedHat has a port to it.

      G5: We have a PowerPc system that has been extended to use 64 bits. Your old software will run. Your new software will run faster. We have MacOSx, BSD, and Linux available, natively compiled.

      There is also something to be said for the G5's parallel memory busses. It divides the ram in half, each half feeding 32 bits of the processor. You could theoretically keep your instructions on one side and data on the other, and pipeline the snot out of it.

      • There is also something to be said for the G5's parallel memory busses. It divides the ram in half, each half feeding 32 bits of the processor.

        multibanked ram is nothing new. it's been around since the 486 days for consumers (iirc), and much earlier in big machines, i'm sure. afaik, most mobosthese days are at least 128bits wide. my alpha (up2000+) is 256.

        You could theoretically keep your instructions on one side and data on the other, and pipeline the snot out of it.

        which would just be slower. 8)

      • Itanium: er, um, we have a new architecture! I think RedHat has a port to it.

        I admin a cluster of Itaniums. They are very fast and have not had one single hint of a problem with them.

        To me, something that is completely unacceptable about the G5s for scientific use is that the machines do not support ECC memory!

        My users run up to 5 days at a time across 8-10 processors, and its not cool to get a wrong answer after that run, and possibly never know about it.

        I personally would not care to admin a cluster
        • by Frobozz0 (247160) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:56PM (#6862056)
          Apparently the PHD's at Virginia Tech disagree with you 5.2 million ($) times. Or 1,100 times, depending on your view of the world...

        • by TekkaDon (223734) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:44PM (#6862625)

          Or so they claim here. [vt.edu] It seems they have all their bases covered and don't give a damn about ECC for a reason.

          [Srinidhi Varadarajan, an assistant professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, and Jason Lockhart, director of the College of Engineering's High Performance Computing and Technology Innovation, initiated the venture at Virginia Tech. Varadarajan is an expert in reliability, a key issue in successfully exploiting terascale computing.]

          They keep on going:

          [Component failures are endemic to any large-scale computational resource. While previous generations of supercomputers engineered reliability into systems hardware, today's high performance computing environments are based on inexpensive clusters of commodity components, with no systemic solution for the reliability of total machine.]

          And now for the solution for your reliability problem.

          [Virginia Tech has the first comprehensive solution to the problem of transparent fault tolerance, which enables large-scale supercomputers to mask hardware, operating system and software failures - a decades old problem. It's a software program called Deja vu, designed by Varadarajan. He also integrated the software with Apple's G5s. This work will enable the terascale computing facility to operate as the first reliable supercomputing facility, according to Varadarajan, a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award recipient.]

          So maybe, just maybe, you and other people could:

          1. READ before posting.

          2. Then READ a little more.

          3. Did I say READ already.

          -sigh- Whatever.
        • by SewersOfRivendell (646620) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:48PM (#6862671)
          I think they are excellent machines, but not for science.

          Yeah, Macs are really bad for scientific research work. [apple.com] No one with a brain would ever use a cluster of them for science. [apple.com] Science requires the Wintel hegemony [apple.com]. -1, troll it, baby.

        • by Greedo (304385) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @04:46PM (#6863312) Homepage Journal
          I think they are excellent machines, but not for science.

          Well, like ...

          One night, I was processing these gene sequences on my Itanium cluster, you know? When all of a sudden it went berserk, the screens started flashing, and, like, the whole result set just disappeared. All of it. And it was a good result set! I had to cram and resequence it really quickly. Needless to say, my rushed thesis wasn't nearly as good, and I blame those Itaniums for the funding didn't get, and tenure I lost.

          I'm happy to report that my sister and I now share an Apple G5 cluster. It's a lot nicer to work on than my old Itanium farm was, it hasn't let me down once, and my papers have all been really good.

          Thanks, Apple.

          Ellen Feiss, PhD
      • *ahem* The PowerPC architecture wasn't extended to support 64-bit. It was the IBM POWER architecture that was "extended" to support 32-bit from 64-bit. The original PowerPC designs were designed to be executably compatible with the POWER architecture.

        This is ENTIRELY unlike the x86 architecture, which has been extended to support 32-bit from 16-bit, and now is being extended YET AGAIN to support 64-bit from 32-bit from 16-bit.
        • Actually, PowerPC was designed as a 64 bit architecture from the ground up. The first implementations were 32 bit, although the PPC 620 was 64 bit AFAIR. The 601 was a hybrid PowerPC/POWER chip which supported both ISAs. The 603 and 604 chips were 32 bit PowerPC implementations and lacked the deprecated POWER instructions which were supported by the 601. IBM also went on to extend POWER to POWER2, POWER3 and a 64 bit implementation of POWER for their mainframes (RS64? and AS/400?). POWER4 is a unificat
    • by Kalak (260968) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:06PM (#6861541) Homepage Journal
      Dell and HP were considered, and Apple won based to a large degree on delivery date. There are more issues to computing than benchmarks, and in the issue of deliverability, Apple won. If you RTFA on the CT, they say it was on the speed and memory of the G5, but the geek grape vine, and hints from the Roanoke times article said availability to get it up in time to make the next top 500 comuter listing we big factors.

      Both Dell and HP have recently announced large clusters, so that may be why they were unable to deliver in time.
    • by BWJones (18351) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:16PM (#6861662) Homepage Journal
      Does anyone know who else was considered for this contract? I'd love to see the arguments for the different platforms!

      Well, considering that the G5 has many of the architectural features of those $40k SGI Octanes that I purchased a few years ago, I would consider that pretty impressive. In short, Apple designed the G5 machines with completely independent busses, so that saturating say an I/O bus will not have any effect on the throughput of say memory to CPU. They are pretty impressive and I can see why many folks who are currently using the Octanes etc... would want new G5's.

      So, you have a UNIX box with true plug and play, 64-bit, nice GUI, full CLI access, Firewire, USB, REALLY nice archetecture etc...etc...etc... All that makes for a pretty convincing argument for clusters moving to the G5's

    • by eddy (18759) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:19PM (#6861706) Homepage Journal

      I'd love to see the arguments for the different platforms!

      I think the argument for G5 came from here [mac.com].

  • Yikes.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by knghtrider (685985)

    1100 G5's...that should corner the market for about a week...and give Apple a small boost to it's bottom line..

  • cray (Score:4, Funny)

    by pheared (446683) <kevin@ph[ ]ed.net ['ear' in gap]> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:59PM (#6861464) Homepage
    Burns: [throws his glass at Homer]
    You call this Postum?
    [bashes a 5-feet high pile of paper]
    Burns: You call this a tax return?
    [bangs a CRAY with his cane]
    Burns: You call this a supercomputer?
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:00PM (#6861473) Homepage Journal
    The comparison is like Apples to Oranges. Most people end up asking "Orange you going to build a beowulf cluster of those Apples?"
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:00PM (#6861474) Homepage Journal
    Maybe Apple will use this G5 cluster against a single-processor itanium to show that, yes, they ARE the fastest personal computer!

    The only problem will be finding a desk big enough to fit the guys...
  • by TWX (665546)
    Not to sound like a troll, but isn't the Apple a bad machine to use for this? It's big, the fan configuration will make it extrordinarily loud, and it's built to cater to the end user, not to the embedded machine market. Yes, OSX/Darwin does work fairly well, but I'd think that the entire purpose of this computer originally would make it ill-suited to this task.

    Many companies build physically smaller machines that still pack a lot of power, or sell parts to allow someone to design their own layout in a
    • Oh nos!1!! The supercomputer will be all loud and stuffs! Whatever shall we do? It will be a pain to play quake on it and ecverything. A monumental failure this.
    • by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:33PM (#6861831) Homepage
      the fan configuration will make it extrordinarily loud

      Apple specifically engineered these systems to be quiet - the compartments are set up the way they are so they can get maximum airflow with minimal blowing. Just because you think "loud" when you hear nine fans doesn't mean they're actually any louder than anything else. You're spreading FUD.

      it's built to cater to the end user, not to the embedded machine market.

      Perhaps your definition of "embedded" is different from mine, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't fit this application. This is a supercomputer cluster. However you are correct that these machines were designed to be desktop computers. Apparently that's not all they're good for.

      Many companies build physically smaller machines that still pack a lot of power,

      Yeah, so does Apple, but these are faster.

      or sell parts to allow someone to design their own layout in a chassis.

      If Virginia Tech wants to order 1,100 of them, don't you think Apple would be flexible if this was a concern?

      Remember, individual cases, power supplies, and the like become way overkill in such a large computer, and it would probably be cheaper to convert electricity once for a large section of the computer, supplying 12v, 5v, and 3.3v without each computer converting itself.

      This is an interesting point I hadn't considered. Feeding 110v into each of 1,100 individual power supplies can't be as energy or heat efficient as what you describe. However, it's possible that they will actually be doing this - I don't think I've seen it mentioned anywhere.

      Another consideration - apparently VT was pressed for time [appleturns.com] and they needed something that would be available quickly; Apple was able to deliver quickly. This may explain why they'd be more inclined to use stock off-the-shelf boxes instead of something more customized.
    • They are very quiet (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Iowaguy (621828)
      Below is a link to show the noise of g5. (a movie). Apple did something called engineering (imagine that in a pc!), to put in many noise reducing features. So, the boxes may be bigger, but you get less power consumption and less noise. It is almost as if you pay extra money, and get extra features. Weird, I know....

      http://homepage.mac.com/aaronsteele/iMovieTheater2 0.html
    • fan configuration will make it extrordinarily loud

      You must not have ever been in a machine room. They are all pretty noisy and cold.

      OSX/Darwin does work fairly well, but I'd think that the entire purpose of this computer originally would make it ill-suited to this task

      Compute nodes are pretty stripped down. All they really need to do is run one app per cpu. The standard *NIX tools like rsh, rcp, nfs (optional), etc are all you need.

      Remember, individual cases, power supplies, and the like become w
    • It's big, the fan configuration will make it extrordinarily loud, and it's built to cater to the end user, not to the embedded machine market.

      Have you ever seen/touched/heard a real live G5? The fans go on and off as-needed--all the fans don't run full bore at all times. Sure, there'll be some noise, but ultimately, not an unbearable amount. (Unlike our AMD core server units we've purchased... Those sound like propeller aircraft taking off.)
  • by anzha (138288) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:02PM (#6861507) Homepage Journal

    So far we've seen that it's a cluster and what the building blocks are. What's the interconnect? What's the OS? What are the nodes using for a network filesystem? Are they at all? Is this intended for parallel jobs or for embarassingly parallel work?

    • by mfago (514801) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:15PM (#6861652)
      The interconnect is Infiniband by Mellanox [mellanox.com]. These things get 10Gbps bandwidth with 6us latency under MPI. Very decent stuff. There is more information at the site above.

      Note that 1100*$3000 = $3M. This doesn't include the 4GB RAM, but also doesn't include any volume discounts. Thus the interconnect may cost about $2M.

      Oh, and to the guy who said "4 Athlons + Myranet is the same price as one G5" -- can I have some of what you're smoking?
    • Well, if you had 1100 dual G5s how would you cluster them?
    • OS is SuSE as it supports Infiniband.

      "Slow Down Cowboy"
      And now I'm typing to wait on /. to let me post this post that is something that might be relevant and on topic so others can post noise.
      • by JimRay (6620) <jimray@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:42PM (#6861909) Homepage
        OS is SuSE as it supports Infiniband.

        Well, according to this story [technewsworld.com], the cluster will be running "a beta version of the latest release of OS X", presumably a beta version of Panther.

        If this is true, I'd bet, and this is purely a guess, that Panther and XCode [apple.com], the new development tool built by Apple, have some support for cluster applications. With technologies like Rendezvous on top of Mach/BSD, it could mean beowulf style supercomputers that are both fast and easy to maintain.
      • Do you know they are using SuSE, or just guessing? I was wondering if Apple developed Infiniband drivers so they could tout OSX as the OS.

        I'd personally probably pick Black Lab [terrasoftsolutions.com] on Yellow Dog Linux -- it's specifically developed for clustering, and includes libraries tuned for Altivec. Not that I don't like SuSE (I run it on my Thinkpad), but SuSE PPC is still at version 7.3, while Intel is at 8.2.
    • by Coocha (114826) <coocha.vt@edu> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @04:26PM (#6863123) Homepage
      My boss here at VT is a volunteer for this project... they've been designing and building rackmount shelf-type units to store all these new G5s, as well as helping with the cooling system. Here's some info he gave me.

      The cluster will eventually run Mac OS 10.27... he said eventually, and Jason Lockhart, the project leader, is a friend and fellow Linux geek of mine (please don't hammer his inbox ;-), so there's a chance that he might use some PPC distro at some point.

      Interconnectivity will be done with Cisco equipment, among the onboard gigabit LANs. Infiniband cards will also eventually be installed for 10 Gbit throughput.

      You guys can offer alternative solutions and troll this as much as you want, but this is what VT is going with. In my opinion, it's not a bad choice... the New IBM PPC chipset is balls-to-the-wall computing, and Apple's 'stock' offerings in the G5 (Gbit ethernet, serial ATA, etc.) are all strong selling points. The fact that this cluster is intended for intense vector and matrix-based algorithms is another bonus, b/c of the PPC vector processing unit.

      Apparently Apple shifted us up to the top of their production ladder, in order to make the contract, thereby extending the wait times for consumers itching for a G5... I find that a little humorous. Can't wait to see gigaflop statistics!!
    • by Kalak (260968) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @04:57PM (#6863403) Homepage Journal
      In talking to the person who is recruiting me to help lug the computers around when they arrive, the OS is to be OS X 10.2.7 on arrival, with plans to upgrade to Panther upon it's release. Straight out-of the box releases, with NetBoot planned to be used to distribute the images to each computer. This contradicts the rumors I've heard before, but is closer to a source who is on the planning team, who is too damn busy to talk to a luser like me.

      Those who are possible volunteer recruits, there is an info session in Andrews ISB in the Corp. Research Center at 7:30 tonight and tomonrrow night (same presentation both nights). You *cannot* be on wage for VT to be elegible. I'm not sure if GAs count as this, since I'm not one, I didn't check.

  • by Maskirovka (255712) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:05PM (#6861538)
    Slashdot summary:
    1) Itaniums are for pussies.
    2) Go Apple!
    3) Opterons still kick the G5's butt.
    4) I can't wait to run doom3 on my backordered G5.
    5) People griping about apples proprietary hardware and software, and how this cluster could have been built cheaper from oem parts, and ebay ethernet hubs.
    6)Dumb lists summarizing other trolls.
  • Even more info ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pentagon13 (166309) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:07PM (#6861553)

    Here's the article from which the Collegiate Times article has paraphrased: http://www.technews.vt.edu/Archives/2003/Sept/0356 6.html [vt.edu]
  • by Eclypser (618863) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:11PM (#6861605)
    Post suggestions here!
  • From one of the articles "For the supercomputer to break the top five supercomputers in the world, it would have to possess 10 teraflops of memory."
  • PowerMac G5s? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foo fighter (151863) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:13PM (#6861624) Homepage
    Why aren't they waiting for the Xserve update? Rhetorical question, but still...

    I haven't seen one, but it looks like the PowerMac G5s are about 4U wide. 1100 x 4U = 4400U / 42 per rack ~= 105 racks.

    Not only is this going to take up an enormous amount of room, but the power and cooling requirements are going to be crazy as well. And they don't have rails so getting them in the racks, and working on them once in the rack, is going to be a PITA.

    1100 G5 Xserves would need only about 25 racks. Many fewer UPSes and A/C units to power in each rack. Much easier to install and work on.

    I know Apple is gung-ho about this validating their "Fastest PC Ever" claims. But it seems a little poorly thought out on the University's part even if they got a sweet up-front price on the machines. Remember: the system price is a small part of TCO.
    • When your are ordering 1100 of them, I'm pretty sure Apple with throw in the rack mount hardware. For all we know, they are getting a special production run with a custom case.
    • I agree that an Xserve G5 would be much more space efficient, but remember that VT supposedly went with Apple over HP/Dell because of ship date.
    • I agree, thats one huge footprint. I used to work at Tech, and believe me, they have the space for such a system, but its still kinda wierd.

      Remember: the system price is a small part of TCO.

      Really. My system cost about $1mil and over 5 years it will cost less than $350,000 to run (cooling, electricity, rent, and me). Hell, after I pay my SCO licenses (NOT!) it would only be another $100k or so.
    • Re:PowerMac G5s? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:01PM (#6862132) Journal
      Why aren't they waiting for the Xserve update?

      What, there's an Xserve update?

      Take a look at the heat sinks in a G5. If you can figure out how to get that into a 1U enclosure, you might want to work for Apple in the hardware design group.

      -jcr
    • Re:PowerMac G5s? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by valdis (160799) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:07PM (#6862203)
      To get it into 25 racks, you need to get it into a 1U form factor. At that point, cooling becomes an issue - you have 40 750W power supplies *per rack* then. We're talking about a space about the size of a phone booth, and the heat equivalent of 20 hair driers on HIGH all going at once. It's gonna get TOASTY at that point. Even if you consider a 2U and expanding out to 50 racks, that's still a lot of heat per square foot.

      Remember - the CPU and the memory are going to generate the same number of BTU/hour whether in a tower case or a 2U rack. And going to the *as yet unannounced* 2U just makes the cooling problem worse...

      Yes, we thought a LOT about these sort of issues.
    • Re:PowerMac G5s? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fork420 (452102) * on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:11PM (#6862250)
      Perhaps they have entered the Reality Distortion Field (TM).

      Apple's platform will probably work here, and once they prove it does, they will open a new segment of buyers, and gain plenty of positive attention. Apple's (recent) record suggests they will exceed expectations.

      As to the cost...the good PR that they can derive from a working G5 supercomputer is easily worth $10m on hardware. At the end of the quarter it's hardly noticable to a company sitting on $3,500,000,000.00 in cash.

      Apple gets to show MSFT they can scale OS X way past Windows. IBM gets to show Intel what it thinks of the Blue Lightning License arrangement, and Apple and IBM, by virtue of being together, get so give MSFT the finger...from way up the (top500.org) list. Not bad for their first try at this.

      ...and think about it from Jobs' perspective: This will be the biggest "Apple Computer" ever made. His ego can't handle this thing not kicking ass.

      --
      Don't forget that Pixar's always looking for high power hardware and they've got lots of new money.
  • Their Website (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rabbit994 (686936)
    Pudge thinks their website isn't good enough. What does he want? Some flash? Maybe some pop up ads to spice it up. Whatever happen to simple being good and fancy being woooo pretty but useless. Oh wait, that still hasn't changed.
  • Not really a dupe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kalak (260968) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:16PM (#6861660) Homepage Journal
    This isn't really a dupe, as this is a mention of the first official words form the school on the subject. Officials are finally speaking (and in some cases backing off) of the cluster in public.
  • Floppy memory?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@bcgre e n . c om> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:16PM (#6861672) Homepage Journal
    From the second article:
    For the supercomputer to break the top five supercomputers in the world, it would have to possess 10 teraflops of memory.

    I think that they mean 10teraflops of computing power, as opposed to 10terabytes of memory -- since the later would require each CPU to have 10GB of ram in it. Nonetheless, the anomaly tells me that this is a reporter not used to computer issues. (too few computer geeks at the college paper).

  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:17PM (#6861687)
    Anyone get the feeling that Apple might be pulling a Be, Inc and is trying to pull off a focus-shift?

    Remember Be, the "multimedia" OS turned "Internet Appliance". Remember the death of Be. (damn, that stings. I miss the BeOS.)

    Now witness Apple:
    For decades, seemingly the darling of the press-production (DTP) world, catering to artists of all magnitudes, it was the computer you used to create real, bona-fide art. It attracted the freaks, the hippies, the art chicks. For many people, this was unnerving. Different people get "different" looks.
    Now who's Apple targetting?
    With OS X, I'm thinking geeks. We're different people, too, but in a, well, different manner. Instead of the artists, Apple's going for traditional suits, the realm of IT. It may be a matter of sheer survival that Apple penetrates here, because they don't stand a chance in these days of "homogenous" work environments.. Out with Apple (even if it works) and in with Dell WinXP machines! Linux faces the same dilemna, although Linux has some other benefits/detriments for it's widespread adoption. If Apple can show it's worth in the server room (just like Linux is doing), then maybe, just maybe, they'll start looking at Apple on the corporate desktop (just like Linux is doing).
    Now, the idea of catering to suits is somewhat.. frightening. The whole damn market is different. They don't care about "look and feel", they care about numbers (see economic downturn, outsourcing to India, massive layoffs, H1B abuse, etc). This means Apple will have to change from being "cool" to utilitarian. But wait, I think I just painted myself into a corner here... Wasn't that the point of Apple? To be a tool and not an obstacle? Instead of creating computer art, we're now creating databases? Maybe Apple is on to something here...
  • This was also discussed even earlier.... on Slashdot in July [slashdot.org] in a discussion of grid computing....
  • by suwain_2 (260792) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:23PM (#6861738) Journal
    Can someone explain the " Maybe VT can use the new computers to beef up their web site" comment? It loads perfectly fast [vt.edu] for me. It looks pretty good. It even runs PHP, so it couldn't be a "They shouldn't use ColdFusion" type remark.

    Am I missing something, or was that just a completely random comment?
    • by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @05:49PM (#6863856) Homepage Journal
      It had better run freaking fast. Virginia Tech has had an OC-3 for at least 6 years, and I think they're upgrading to hook into network virginia's bigger pipes.

      For those out of the loop, network virginia [networkvirginia.net] is a partnership between verizon (local loops), sprint (borders and pipes), and Virginia tech (expertise and tech support). A few years ago, they had 2 OC-3's from Northern Va to roanoke, 1 to richmond, and 1 from roanoke to richmond. Their updated network topology map can be found by clicking here [networkvirginia.net]. The bottom one is the latest one. At any rate, they've got multiple OC-12's running from Nova to Roanoke, mainly because of VT. Tech may already be hooked into the OC-12's, i'm not sure.

      Also, I'm not sure about how much will be lost in clustering, but according to the CT article today, the dual 2.0 Ghz G-5 can pull 14 teraflops by it's self. If we're getting 1100 of them, say, drop ~10% for overhead, that would still put us up at 14000 teraflops, which is ahead of ascii white and behind los alamos.

      Also: regarding power requirements and all of that - we have several state of the art facilities on campus for this kind of stuff, including the VT Corporate research center and Torgersen hall (home of the center for advanced computing and where we keep all the fun VR rooms and stuff). There's a power plant on campus. We never lost power when I lived in a dorm, not during snow storms or huge thunderstorms or anything. It supplies power for most of blacksburg, too. Shameless plug, but that's one selling point for the company where I work, netmar [netmar.com], because we get our power from the VT power plant, and it's about 2.5 blocks away, we hardly ever lose power for more than 2 minutes, so we haven't had to put our generators to work in forever. Nowadays, we just test them with the remote start to make sure they're working, and to scare people that are hanging around the generator hut.

      Anyway, VT has no problems finding a place for these things to go, and will have no problem providing power for them. Climate control should be no problem, either. For starters, it's easy to cool things in blacksburg, cause it hasn't been above 100 degrees in 100 years here.

      Some people in my econ class today were talking about why are we doing it, and what's it going to be used for. Really, I think we're doing it to get grant money and sponsorships/funding, because with the economic situation in VA, we're scrambling to find money. We've had to drop teachers without replacing them and cut back on services all over (no more trash cans in dorm hallways, you have to take your own trash outside, can't afford the maintinance staff). Also, the Vet school will get a lot of use out of it. That's the "virginia-maryland regional college of veteranary medicine". They're looking for ways to cure problems with small bacteria instead of drugs (i'm not clear on the particulars, that's the impression i got). They're going to try and track what happens to something when it's introduced into an animal or something. Anyway, they'll use it, as will VT's engineering school, which, despite being tied for like 73rd on the list of top schools, and inexplicably 55 positions behind UVA, is an excellent program and produces excellent engineers.

      ~Will
  • Sounds fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:26PM (#6861768)
    There are a bunch of people posting gripes that this was a bad idea. But I don't think it's that bad. We should at least withold judgment until we see some data. One thing's for certain, it will outperform YOUR cluster.

    Among the top complaints were:

    You could buy several AMD's for that.
    You might be able to, but the G5's they are buying already have 2 very good processors. As long as they're dividing up tasks among processors, it's nice to have all the memory management and overhead taken care of at a level of two processors per node instead of one. To be honest, I've never seen it done before, and it could have very interesting results.

    The Mac's aren't designed for this sort of thing.
    We don't know all the details of this cluster because they weren't all mentioned in the story, but my hunch is that Apple might cater to them a little if they are offering to dump $5 mill on a cluster. They might package the cases differently (sans curvy plastic or with shared power supplies).

    Anyway, when it comes to speed of high precision calculations, the G* chips have proven their worth. And most High Science applications fall into that range of operation. We all know that clustering and distrubuting is touchy. The cost and speed don't scale linearly. And the cost vs speed ratio definately doesn't scale literally.

    There is a possibility these computer science professors know something. So we might want to see how this thing performs before we rush to judgement.
  • by Lally Singh (3427) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:30PM (#6861806) Journal
    Lots of "WHY?" questions, with lots of pointless trolling on the G5; but none of them actually look for answers. Mostly just more idiots who can't understand that a good vendor is important; that their own time is important; that ease of use is even more important now than it ever has been before. Luckily, these same idiots spend all their time setting up sendmail over their 14.4 modem. As for the G5, here are some strongpoints for it: - A fast memory pipe (1GHz) - Good heat management (9 fans but it's quieter than its predecessor) - Damn good FP performance (To get comparable FP performance on intel, you have to use the -fviolate-ieee flag on gcc, think about that) - Vendor-installed, vendor-supported Unix, with the vendor employing the entire OS's development team. - Fast system interconnects with network & I/O - Easy system setup (this matters a lot when you've got 1100 of them) - Proven apple reliability (and if you're going to fight this one, have something better than "is not!") (again, very important when you've got 1100 of them) Oh yeah, and OS X. Mach microkernel, Rondezvous, and distributed builds in the default toolset. Again, the idiots I mentioned above wouldn't have a clue about this stuff. As for _why_ VT getting this, VT's one of the largest engineering schools in the country. We've gotta simulate airflow over wings, heat propogation over materials, and other stufff this CS major doesn't understand. And we've got big development in bioinformatics. All kinds of CPU to crunch. AFAIK, the cluster's being paid for by federal grants or something like that. And now fools, flame me. Prove me right.
    • (and of course, after all that intellectual trash-talk, I posted without preview. here it is again, with the right (semi-) formatting). Lots of "WHY?" questions, with lots of pointless trolling on the G5; but none of them actually look for answers. Mostly just more idiots who can't understand that a good vendor is important; that their own time is important; that ease of use is even more important now than it ever has been before. Luckily, these same idiots spend all their time setting up sendmail over t
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:39PM (#6861884) Homepage
    I think we can all agree that the shocking thing here wasn't that they were building the super computer as much as it was that a campus rumor was true!

    What will happen next, dogs and cats living together? Mass hysteria?

  • OS X 10.3 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Srsen (413456) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:41PM (#6861896)
    As it turns out, this is the minimum recommended system configuration to run OS X 10.3 Panther.
  • I have a sneaking suspicion that these computers aren't going to be used as a supercomputer for long. I bet they set this up, get on the supercomputer list, and then in six months or a year farm out the computers to use in computer labs around campus. Besides, I haven't heard a compelling reason why VT *needs* a supercomputer.
  • by GPS Pilot (3683) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:02PM (#6862142)
    Read why here [macedition.com].
  • by 47Ronin (39566) <glenn@nospaM.47ronin.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:09PM (#6862233) Homepage
    Now that we have G5s don't ya think it would be a better idea to use a G5 pic instead of the G4 icon? e.g. http://www.apple.com/g5processor/ [apple.com]
  • Umm... OK.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by greymond (539980) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @03:25PM (#6862442) Homepage Journal
    So I read this "The project comes at a time when the university's academic departments are struggling to fulfill students' educational needs in the wake of a $72 million reduction in state support."

    and then I wonder why you would spend $5mil dollars over the next 5 years to build a supercomputer? It seems like a better idea would be to reach out to the slahsdot/linux communities and see what kind of equipment they could get donated/free and then build a semi-super computer with that - or hell even just buy a shitload of cheap pc's to do it with....

    maybe i'm just missing something...

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