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Apple Businesses

World's Fastest Macintosh Cluster 165

gabeman-o writes: "The Grupo de Lasers e Plasmas has created the fastest Apple G4 cluster. The cluster runs on 16 Dual PowerPC G4/450, 32 processors, 12GB of RAM, .5TB of space, and Mac OS 9. Apparently, they have utilized the AppleSeed technology developed by UCLA. According to the website, the cluster will be used for simulating plasmas. Not too shabby!"
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World's Fastest Macintosh Cluster

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, due to the fact that the PPC7400 has an Altivec unit it is much faster than any comparable Intel processor.

    The vector unit is only any good if the application has been compiled to take advantage of it, although granted computational fluid dynamics is vector intensive.

    To get the same speed from Intel hardware you need something like 50 dual Pentium /// computers.

    Ummm. That seems like a very optimistic estimate of how much the altivec unit will help.

    And the price for rackmount computers is almost comparable with the Apple G4 dual 450.

    For the price of one maxed out dual 450 (~$6-10K), I could get 4 or more (dual proc) linux 1U machines.

    Second, gigabit ethernet is standard on those machines.

    The transport bandwidth matters less in clustering than the transport LATENCY. For that you want something like Myrinet.

    If they want to they can replace the 100baseT switch with a gigabit switch.

    Which would only cost about another $5000 or more. Doubt me? Go look on eBay for "cisco catalyst gigabit". And again, ethernet is not suited for this application.

    I'm not saying that this isn't a cool project, but by the same token, stating that Macs are the end all and be all of scientific computing is just wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Apple hyped that optical mouse as if they dreamt up the idea. Too bad Logitech (and I believe MS) had it on the market about a year before Apple. Notice how the new Powerbook has built in ethernet; I'm sure Apple will try to claim that they invented that too. At least they ditched the Toiletseatbook styling and went for the innovative notebook look that Compaq invented in the 80s. I am holding out for the next Mac innovation, the iPokemonitor, which will fold nicely into a little ball and convert to a 2.35:1 40" plasma 3d monitor when summoned.
  • Most of the TCO of a computer is the support time and training, NOT the purchase price of the hardware/software.

    For desktops, maybe. But clusters have completely different economics. The "training" cost is *zero* after the first (or second, depending how you look at it) machine. And the purchase price is perfectly linear, so it becomes a far more important concern.

  • by SoupIsGood Food ( 1179 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @10:34AM (#217349)
    > Wouldn't it be cheaper to do this with a bunch of PC's in stead?
    > Not as pretty but it's someones tax dollars that pay for these...

    Fact of life: hardware is cheap. A $3,000 Mac vs. a $2000 PC is peanuts, even if the total difference is 30-40k for the whole installation.

    Re-tooling the development environment, retraining IT and programming personell, porting code to the new platform and the cost to set up and configure the new and cheaper hardware far outweighs the cost of the hardware itself. Then there's the time lost in accomplishing all of the above.

    If your admins know Mac, and your coders and QA staff are used to building and testing Mac code with Mac tools (MPW, Codewarrior, Macsbug), you go with Mac. End of story.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • I suppose they could not afford a Giganet switch. Those machines support 1000Base-T out of the box.

    Interesting that they did not go with the G4/500MP, which was also available.

    It looks like they added RAM to each of the machines, but kept the stock 30 gig hard drive.
  • My guess is they felt like getting a couple of mouse pads and putting them on the shelves. Looking at the photo, it seems they accomplished that mission. I'll bet it wasn't even hard.

    Your design acumen is absolutely stunning, though.

  • Do you have anything, at all, to add to the discussion? Or do you just like to talk?
  • Why does everyone build clusters using normal desktop boxes? Rackmount clusters make so much more sense. Admittedly, I don't think the G4 comes in a rackmount configuration, but surely that makes other options (Sun Netra, Compaq DS10L or noname Intel boxen) more appropriate?
  • Maybe if someone can come up with a cool-sounding name then folks will stop calling them clusters

    How about Clumps?

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • Offtopic?!? WTF?

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • While I know where you were coming with this, you're pretty wrong...

    The G4 might replace the mixing board and tape/ADATs/HD, but to record you need a few other things. Examples:

    * Microphones - A good studio will have many, some costing thousands of dollars.

    * Facilities - As a rule, good recordings do not come out of the living room. Building a studio is expensive, and outfitting an existing building is not much cheaper.

    * (Most Importantly) Knowledgeable Staff - A great engineer/producer team can make a decent record from a Tascam cassette recorder. Why don't they? Because these people already work for big studios, where they get paid what they're worth.

    There are many great engineers in many great small studios out there. Mix did a report on about 10 of them a few months ago, and there are surely hundreds more, if not thousands.

    My point is not "G4 Studios can't do it well" it's "Buying a G4 does not buy you a studio".

  • What about calling it an orchard?

    Actually, I was hoping that Apple, not 3Com, would get to rename Candlestick Park in SF. The "Apple Orchard" sounds a lot better than "3Com Park".

    Then again, "Leprosy Field" sounds better than "3Com Park"..

    ".sig, .sig a .sog, .sig out loud, .sig out .strog"

  • Take a look at that picture on the right. There are two monitors in the frame. Look at the right monitor. Look closely. If I'm not mistaken, that's OS X.

    Default OS X background, Dock on the bottom of the screen. Oh yeah, they're using OS X. In a way, this makes sense. They say they're using Pooch [], and Pooch is available on OS X.

    Very very cool!
  • IANAKW (I Am Not A Karma Whore), but I have to say that was damn funny. LMAO. "It's funny 'cause it's true!" Homer Simpson. Disclaimer: Ok, OS X is not -that- slow, and I am using it as my primary OS on my Cube (w/ 320MB RAM), but it/GUI/Aqua does, currently at least, have an annoying molasses-like quality to it, which I hope and pray will be improved soon.
  • Kindof a valid point, tho it's fairly obvious
    that said cluck is just a bitter old VMS user.

  • 2U of rackspace can mean a lot in some installations. On that page you gave though it talks about it being 6U tall.. jeez. For one Mac??

    If you can get 6 machines in 6U opposed to 1 machine in 6U, guess what most people who are nuts about rackmounting as much kit as possible will choose? :> It's not hard to figure out.

  • As always, with Macs and PCs, the systems can have a similar amount of power but there's always those glaring differences.

    Like.. Cost? .. PC hardware is much cheaper than Mac hardware. Probably from the economies of scale and the fact there's no ONE supplier of PC hardware that can keep its prices (artificially?) high. Cost is a big factor I think.

    There's power usage too, like someone mentioned, an Athlon is a bit a of a power hog, PowerPC chips aren't. That is a very good reason to cluster PowerPC chips. What I'd like is to be able to buy PowerPC chips and motherboards cheaply and plentifully like their Intel/AMD brethren, and run Linux on it - without paying the 'Mac tax'.

    There's operating system choices too.. and far too many to get into detail about. Linux is common between both platforms, and the various quirks of Linux, Mac OS and Windows may or may not be someones bag.

    Best bet is to play with whatever system you feel like buying beforehand.

    I wouldn't worry too much about raw speed, as whatever you buy .. as soon as you get it out of the packaging .. is already obsolete ;>

  • With Appleseed clusters you don't need some convoluted set of instructions to set it up, the nodes need only TCP/IP and file sharing turned on and you can use POOCH to control them. You can have a mild mannered room full of graphic workstations during the day and turn them into a super computer at night. Who in the holiest of all holy fucks cares if this cluster isn't on the Top500 list? Supercomputing folk will laugh in your face if you mention Beowulf in the same context as Cray you jackasses. By the way for those of you who are complete fucking idiots, they maintained 50 Gflops using AltiVec aware software which can pump out several values per instruction (SIMD in case you're wondering). If you're going to be using a cluster like this there's no reason not to enable every hardware advantage you possibly can on each of the nodes. As for compatibility you can use MacMPI for C/C++ and FORTRAN code or use distributed object coding in Cocoa in OS X. I guess Linux folk don't appriciate things that actually work how the documentation describes.
  • Check your math. The G4 listed is only 29% faster than the PIII listed, not 75% or 50% in terms of keys/sec.

    If you're doing some kind of weird comparison based on keys/Mhz, it's 189% faster, but I'm not sure that's a comparison that makes any sense since you can't build systems that way.

    A more interesting comparison would be keys/$ -- ie, how much cracking power can you buy for a given dollar amount. By a very crude measure, a 466Mhz G4 is $1600 and a 1Ghz Dell is closer to $1000.

    If you have $5k to spend, the Dell buys you 28,432,490 keys/sec and the Mac buys you 22,166,475 keys/sec. The Dell system would then give you 5,686 keys/$, the Mac 4,618 keys/$.

    Since nobody does these projects for $5k or desktop machines, I'd imagine that the performance gap would actually grow substantially in favor of Intel hardware for the same money spent.
  • You didn't answer the power question, though. All 32 processors in this cluster are using less power than 8 PIII/1GHz. Can 8 PIII/1GHz CPU's do more computation than 32 G4/450MHz CPU's with Altivec? How much cooling does that room have?

    Who gives a shit? The marginal costs of power and cooling for Intel hardware are *trivial* next to the increased performance for dollar invested. If I can make $10 for every 5M keys, why would I buy a more expensive computer that makes does fewer keys to save $50 on the monthly power bill when it would cost me thousands of dollars in lost work? That kind of argument works in outer space, the desert or someplace where every watt matters, but in the real world that most people work in it doesn't mean a damn thing.

  • Check your math. The G4 listed is only 29% faster than the PIII listed, not 75% or 50% in terms of keys/sec.

    Jup, a 450 Mhz G4 is about 29 faster than a Pentium /// 1 Ghz.
    If we compare a theoretical G4 1 Ghz with the same Pentium /// 1 Ghz then the G4 will outrun it almost 2,5 times.
    A fully loaded G4 733 Mhz. with a DVD/CD burner, 256 Mb of memomy and standard gigabit ethernet is around $ 3499-.
    But you can get a dual G4 533 for around $ 2049- which isn't expensive.
    A dual Pentium /// 1 Ghz. with firewire, gigabit ethernet and 128 Mb of memory cost almost the same.

  • Wouldn't it be cheaper to do this with a bunch of PC's in stead? Not as pretty but it's someones tax dollars that pay for these...

    Well, due to the fact that the PPC7400 has an Altivec unit it is much faster than any comparable Intel processor.
    To get the same speed from Intel hardware you need something like 50 dual Pentium /// computers.
    And the price for rackmount computers is almost comparable with the Apple G4 dual 450.
    Second, gigabit ethernet is standard on those machines.
    If they want to they can replace the 100baseT switch with a gigabit switch.
  • though they may not be made for racks, those handles make moving them very easy. Their whole design is good for heat dissapation. the handles hold it off the ground, allowing for airflow under each computer. I remember them saying the design is good for rackmounting, but I would have to see how it is done.
  • It's those marathon clusters that are powering the independent studios in Nashville. Screw Sony and the other mega studios. You can set up a G4 recording studio for less than what a recording session would cost. the sound quality is just as good too. You can also do the cover art, and burn the discs on the same machine. then when it is time for MTV or TNN, you can edit your video.

    I noted the boxes in the feature artical were running OS9 and OSX.

    Computers can give us the power unless someone like MS takes it away.
  • I know of a G4 cluster with 96 machines. However, it isn't general public knoweledge. I used to administer it, and if I get permission from the owner, I can discuss it. Suffice to say it's used for image processing.
  • How can this possibly be off topic? It's exactly what this thing is.

    That was the irony in the joke. A beowulf cluster of beowulf clusters. Doesn't anyone see the humor (or perhaps usefullness) of the idea? I guess distributed computing concepts are only valid for finding alien communications among "I Love Lucy" reruns. :P

  • Maybe things have changed recently....Several years ago I had to support an art department that used Macs (Then on a 7.x version of MacOS, we upgraded to 8.x while I was there). Compared to the 2 artists who used NT Workstation, the Macs bombed all the time. The Macs were definitely faster on the same apps, but the cost was much higher, plus we were constantly wasting time trying to get extensions "just so", contorting our bodies to reset the PROM, etc....
  • Sure those little shelves look cool - but how do you think those guys felt when the needed opaque mouse pads for their brand new OPTICAL mice?
  • I don't think metrics of support time and training directly translate to this kind of cluster. These machines are being used in an unconventional way; you don't really have to worry about somebody screwing up the extensions/dlls/shared libraries on just one of the boxes, for instance.

    What's more important to them is the cost of development of software for the cluster. And if they've got enough Mac weenies around to argue for the Apple hardware solution, they probably have the talent and dedication to make it work---so it's probably a pretty cheap solution. This is also why x86 Linux Beowulf clusters work well in some environments...people are excited and knowledgable about a technology that they're recommending.

    As far as the TCO numbers go, I'd like to see a recent citation. Yes, it's my intuition that MacOS is cheaper to support than Windows, but most of the numbers people usually quote are traceable back to a study done in 1996, comparing, what, MacOS 7.5 to Windows 95.

    BTW, my sources in IT departments say that upgrading boxes from W9x to W2K has cut trouble ticket counts dramatically.

    (I'm nominally a Linux weenie, but I gave in and ordered a used iMac because I miss the NeXT. Anybody else in the same boat?)
  • by victim ( 30647 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:41AM (#217375)
    Sorry, I got ranty on this. To summarize, the parent article makes some good points, the previous replies are too extreme in their criticism. I supply better anecdotal evidence than them. :-)

    For CFD the altivec units will be heavily used, it is correct to use them for comparing speed to PIIIs. There may be a case where it matches 50 dual PIIs, but that sounds extreme.

    I just bought three lowend Gateway 2U rackmount boxes. They come in at ~$2200 for a single 800MHz PIII which will be slower than the dual 533MHz mac at ~$2500. That certainly meets `almost comparable'.

    Neither of these machines are very cheap computers. There definately is a quality problem when you get into very cheap computers. There are applications for them, but if your diagnostic time is worth much, then I believe it pays to buy better hardware. (Plus you don't bleed when you have to open them up and add memory or drives. Once you get above the nasty low end machines they take time to deburr the stampings. My brother runs a metal working factory and their worst injury this year has been an IT guy that stumbled while holding a cheap PC and sliced several fingers to the bone.)

    The new Macs do come with gigabit ethernet (although I don't think those old 450s had gigabit) and an OS. That gateway price is a bare machine. I put Linux on `for free', but the 2.4 kernel series (which I needed for iptables) had bugs in the interrupt routing for the chipset and it took me weeks of effort to get it all worked out into a stable configuration (manifested as a AIC-7xxx problem, took a while to find the interrupt controller problem). I knew I should have bought a 4th scratch box.

    Gigabit ethernet hubs are still $250/port, but that will come down quickly. I remember when I bought a Powermac and thought it was just plain silly to put a 10/100 adapter in it, only servers could afford to have 100mbit ports. In 12 months all my new hubs where 100mbit.

    I've got loads of Apples and loads of PCs. The apple hardware failure rate is less than half our PC hardware failure rate. Depending on the cost of a failure (in terms of ruined work, lost work, diagnosis, and repair) I do lean toward Macs because of their better reliability. (And before we get into a flame war on your reliable PC... I'm sure there are reliable models of PCs, but I need a vendor I can count on to make every model I might buy reliable. I can't look at historical data and say "look, here is a model that was made two years ago that was a good one" because I can't buy that anymore. (And yes, I own a PB5300, I know the counter argument, but Apple fixes it for free whenever it breaks so thats not so bad.))
  • I have access to a lab here on my campus of 16 Dual-450s and 16 500Mhz G4's. I bet that would make one helluva RC5 cracking machine. :)


  • by marcsiry ( 38594 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:32AM (#217377) Homepage
    Although Mac OS9 doesn't natively support dual processors, application support for duals can be added via a system extension.

    Several Mac OS9 apps are specifically coded to use the second processor... Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D, and other graphically intensive apps. Users of those applications appreciate all the cycles they can get.

    Since the second processor is dedicated to the single application using it at the time, you usually see pretty high effeciencies for a kludge-- 190% speed increases in those specific apps.

    Apple has flirted with duals since 1996's 9600 MP, but it wasn't until OSX that they really made sense.

  • Noone would ever defend that bastard mouse.


  • A massively parallel distributed "BUSHEL" of Apples.
  • In its day a dual processor 450MHz G4 went for $2500 or less. Even maxing out the RAM to 1.5GB and adding SCSI drives (which they didn't do) you would still be well under $4000 not the $6K-$10 you quoted. That's just FUD. For $2500 now you can get dual 533MHz with 133MHz bus and $1000 with get you 3 good quality 512MB PC133 DIMMS.
  • I'm sorry but you're not a very good mac admin then. And neither was the admin at the job I am at now. But all our machines now are running spot on with almost no crashes for the last year. All it takes is a little understanding of how MacOS works and making sure that new applications you install are compatible with other apps and the OS. At that point you either need to install the necessary patches or update the offending apps. Also don't let people install just anything on their Macs. Use Multiple users to create restricted user accounts to prevent that. And why in good God's earth are you always reseting the PRAM? Excercising your fingers? I find it useful every once in a while to rebuild the desktop, but very rarely. Restoring the PRAM is a last ditch effort when you are having problems with Monitors and conflicting resolutions or Appletalk troubleshooting. Other than that you are wasting your time.
  • See Marathon Computer []. They have a pretty wide range of rack-a-Mac equipment.

  • Good point and all... but how exactly do you save money by buy a SECOND CPU that the OS (Mac OS 9) doesn't even see... won't single proc mac's or an OS that could use them be cheaper?

    Classic Mac OS can use multiple processors, it's just that the applications have to be specifically written to use them, which the "clustering" software here apparently is.

    I guarnette any admin that is worth his weight can keep 16 X86/Sparc/Alpha boxen running as stable as 16 Mac boxen...

    Sure, but if it only takes the admin half the time to manages the Macs, that means he has more time to do other work, or that you can double the number of Macs without hiring another admin.

  • I doubt that. But even if your premise is correct you'd have to add the time for rewriting all their software for Windows or Linux. Let's not even start thinking about if some of that is commercial software.
  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:37AM (#217385) Homepage
    ...since you can't buy these machines in any other casings that tower or cube. I doubt that it pays off for 64 machines.

    How much extra does the case cost? It's just a few pieces of cheap plastic. And the extra features (handles & door) makes it a lot easier to work with than the standard beige box.

    I see a lot of posts complaining about the cases, of all things. I don't think this crowd is really upset about the cost. I think it's that they just can't stand functional things being beautiful. And that's very sad.
  • by nutty ( 70104 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @05:35AM (#217386) Homepage
    When I competed in a sceince fair [] back in March, amoung other awards I won the "Princeton Plasma Physics Award", an award sponsored by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) here in New Jersey, and as a winner I was given a free tour of the facilities. For those of you who don't know, PPPL is "The hottest place in the Universe", lying at the forefront of Nuclear Power and Plasma research...very cool. []

    So I was going around the facilites, visiting their $125,000,000 tokamac's and torsotrons and all this crazy equipment (very cool science plamsa physics is, too much to elaborate on here), and I get to the control room, from which they run all their Data Acquisition (DaQ) and such to monitor the expirements, and the room is filled with .... MACS? The engineer giving me the tour explained that it was in the personal interest of most of the researchers. Yes, there were Sun's and other UNIX boxes scattered on the control room floor, but I would look closely, and sure enough, amounst the three or so monitors at each workstation, one of them was hooked up to a mac. There were g4's and g3's scattered all across the floor. Wack.

    So yea, Mac's are playing a key role in plasma research, helping achieve effecient fusion, one step at a time.

    For another cool plamsa physics project (unrelated to mac's), check out Garrett Young's ISEF [] project Quasi-Elliptical Torsatron - A Study of Induced Radial Electric Fields and Plasma Turbulence []. He is a senior in high school and on the cutting edge of plasma physics research. Quite the talented individual.
  • my company [] has several g4 systems an order of magnitude more powerful (320 CPUs) both in house for testing and in customers hands. and they only eat up 9u in a 19" rack.

    and as far as ppc architecture clusters go, just about any IBM RS-6000-SP2 system is more powerful, and probably takes up less space too.
  • I'm very proud of the way a G4 looks, and show it to people quite often, despite it's being shoved under my desk, thankyouverymuch. It's called (say it with me now) A-E-S-T-H-E-T-I-C ... !
  • WTF? Are you implying that OS X takes a long time to boot up? I have a G4/350, and both OS 9.1 and OS X boot up rather quickly. It takes my windoze machine at work MUCH longer to boot up. You want to talk about bloated OSes and software, look to Redmond, WA.

  • I guarnette any admin that is worth his weight can keep 16 X86/Sparc/Alpha boxen running as stable as 16 Mac boxen

    I work for an all Mac company with over 16 Macs and we don't have any admins. Everything from imacs to ibooks to G3's and G4's and even a few 8500's and not one tech guy, Hmmm...
  • 'Yes, but a 6 year old with no computing experience, with OS X, can compute circles around a 6 year old using your OS' but if said 6 yearold were useing bsd they would be learning to use a computer, while if they were useing your osX they would be learning to point and click. I mean where would i be if I wasnt messin around with dos when I was 6.
  • I really don't understand the hoopla about rack-mounts. They only make sense where you pay big bucks for space (in a rack). They cost more, are less robust (due to poorer cooling), harder to service (have you ever been inside a G4 desktop?) and less expandable.

    Basically, these clusters are made from desktops because it is a lot cheaper and convenient as long you have the space.

  • "Wooo hoo!! Look at how fast our Mac cluster is!! Now we can run... Oh wait... what the hell are we going to do with this thing?"
    Remember, not all /. users hate Windows or think Microsoft is out to get them!
  • You mean now that some new piece of whizzy kit gets released we've got to speculate what a Beowulf "distributed parallel computing array" of them would run like? Maybe if someone can come up with a cool-sounding name then folks will stop calling them clusters : )
  • ...maybe you can code an application by hand under a OS that using more than one proc even if the host OS doesn't support it?

    Bingo! Photoshop supports multiple processors under OS9 but it must be coded at the application level.

  • Re:Some cluck at MacNN (Score:1) by jbarnett ( on Thursday May 17, @08:25AM EST (#72) (User #127033 Info) Proposed terms of "cluster of apple computers" apple tree

    I suppose one that developed AI would be an Apple Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

  • 100 Macs in a cluster= ~$250,000
    6 CPU Cray T3E= $630,000

    I can't even find a quote on a 32 proc T3E much less a 100(128). Nothing realistic price-wise here.

  • I'll be glad when every bit of debug code is removed from OSX to help remove its sluggishness.

    Gosh! I've been waiting since NeXTStep 1.0 for them to remove all that debugging code.


  • I'm drunk and you're all a bunch of fucking assholes. Why don't you all be who you are, instead of trying to say something "intelligent" or "insightful". Everything that gets the +5 or +4 scores can be imagined by the average slashdot user, but simply is not stated because it's so obvious. Why are all you fucking assholes so condescending? The worst is all you l33t k5 people who think you're smarter than slashdot. Well, listen to this: The trolls here are the smartest around. They realize that you're all a bunch of fucking wannabe's who want your droll opinion (not really your own) heard so you can get fucking karma points. Why do you care about karma? I'll tell you why. Because you don't have the balls enough to believe that your real opinion is worth anything. You say what is expected and what you think people want to hear so they will mod you up. Mother Fuckers! Be yourselves, forget about fucking karma. I learn a lot more from browsing at -1 than at 2 or higher. You're all Karma whores. The trolls only realize that, while boring and reduntant (even if not said before), it will get modded up because you people are a bunch of cattle, following the herd. Grow up, speak your mind, and forget about what the others think and what they want to hear. I was going to post this anonymously, but I guess I'll grow some balls and post it logged in. What do the rest of you think? Goodnight,

  • They set up the "cluster" in one hour. That lowers the TCO substantially.
  • That sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. I just turned on my G4 400 w/ OSX last night and it's almost ready for me to use it already.
  • I use a G4 400 w/ 192MB Ram at work. It's hard to make accurate/fair comparisons, but the closest thing I've got is SETI. Prior to the 3.x series of SETI clients, my G4 was approximately 50% faster than my PII 400 w/ 384MB Ram at home. It took ~6 hours to do a unit while my P2 average around 9. I'm pretty sure that with the 3.x clients it remained with that comfortable lead. I'm now running OSX at work, and with it's overhead, my PII running Linux feels snappier. I think the SETI advantage is still there for the Mac, but I'll be glad when every bit of debug code is removed from OSX to help remove its sluggishness. I haven't used any apps to keep track of SETI wu's now on the mac side, but I've got a buddy that runs a dual G4 533 that processes two units every ~12 hours (Approx. 6 hours per unit.) I have a Dell P3 1000 w/ 256MB Ram running Linux that averages 7h 20m per unit at the moment.
  • Have a look here. [] It's not running AppleSeed, but it is the largest collection of racked Macs.

  • Are you referecing the fact that MacOS 9 doesn't have Dual proc support... do they realize the second cpu (and the cash used to get that extra cpu) is just sitting doing nothing but burning up (the cash) and causing heat (the proc)?

    It's like running a dual proc P3 and using Windows 95/98. Atleast go with something that has dual proc support like MacOS X, Windows NT or Linux... if your going to play with 2 procs.

    No, this isn't a flame/troll... just wondering what there logic is behind this... maybe you can code an application by hand under a OS that using more than one proc even if the host OS doesn't support it?

  • Good point and all... but how exactly do you save money by buy a SECOND CPU that the OS (Mac OS 9) doesn't even see... won't single proc mac's or an OS that could use them be cheaper?

    Last time I looked apple didn't have a "buy one get one free" deal on their CPUs

    Also we are talking Professinal Admins here, any decent admin should be able to handle a 16 boxen, no matter want the hardware/software is as long as that is the admin's "grove"...

    I guarnette any admin that is worth his weight can keep 16 X86/Sparc/Alpha boxen running as stable as 16 Mac boxen...

  • It originally started as people using stock desktops because they were cheap and abundant. Rack mountables aren't usually sold at swap meets and pawn shops so the desktops were easier to get, and cheaper. Today, though, using normal desktops has lost all meaning since people actually are buying new desktops while the stripped-down rack-mounts with simillar specs would be cheaper.


  • What I find so damn hilarious about Apple is:

    a) When G3s came out, they were marketed as mini-supercomputer.

    b) When Mac OS X came out, they said 'your old G4 isn't fast enough to run OS X'

    Meanwhile, my 486/33 sub-notebook (which cost me exactly $20) is running smoothly on emBSD (32meg tiny OpenBSD derivitive) on a 100 Meg hard drive, and 12 Megs of RAM. Surfing the web over my cablemodem with Links, and laughing at all you Mac fanatics. And don't even get me started on my Psion 5mx (


  • Mac OS is your OS of choice... OpenBSD is mine. I was talking about the most recent release of OpenBSD, you are talking about an out-dated version of Mac OS. (Just try getting an OS 7 security patch for a newly found exploit or bug)

    The point is that your OS brings your 'supercomputer' to it's knees and mine takes one that by all accounts is already on it's knees and makes it into anything you could want it to be (web server, proxy, firewall, gateway, bridge, etc).

    Besides tht, I would seriously doubt that you can find MacSEs for that price.


  • Links [] is a much better browser by far.


  • Yes, but the debate was between Mac OS and OpenBSD... Saying NetBSD or OpenBSD works on them is besides the point... You certainly can't get OS 9 or OS X on them.

    And if you really want to give them away, contact me by email... I don't think I'll be hjearing from you will I ?


  • You know what... It's been quit some time since the post and yet I haven't been contacted about buying any old Apple hardware yet... Amazing how the put-up or shut-up style posts tend to kill the discussions here on /.


  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:24AM (#217416) Journal
    It's not that they're trying to set a record, just getting enough power to try and run OS X


  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:36AM (#217417) Journal
    Well after 5 hits, the server is barely responsive, so here's the page before the server completely dies:

    Researchers at the Grupo de Lasers e Plasmas (GoLP) achieved the first milestone of the GoLP simulation program on Extreme Plasma Physics: the installation of the first Macintosh G4 cluster in Europe, called epp (or ep2), which is based on the AppleSeed [] paradigm developed at UCLA by Viktor Decyk et al. The epp cluster is capable of delivering over 50 GFlops of peak power, and it is based on 16 Dual PowerPC G4/450, 32 processors, 12 Gigabytes of RAM, 0.5 Terabyte of hard disk space, running Mac OS 9, over 100 Mb/s Fast Ethernet, switched by one Asanté Intracore 8000. This is the fastest Macintosh-based cluster in the World. The installation and set up of this cluster took less than 1 day (including moving the machines to the computer room, unpacking the machines, and making all the cables!), and it did not require previous knowledge of networking: a one-page recipe for Mac OS clusters can be found here (AppleSeed website) [] (Portuguese translation coming soon). This "supercomputer for the rest of us" will be used for the numerical simulation of plasmas, novel plasma particle acceleration schemes using ultra intense lasers, and relativistic shocks in astrophysics. This work supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia []. More info available soon (also in Portuguese), as well as science using epp. For more information also contact Luís O.Silva [mailto](+351 21 8419 336).


  • if that optical mouse works on the glass table :p
  • Although Mac OS9 doesn't natively support dual processors, application support for duals can be added via a system extension.
    Um, no, OS9 has in-kernel support for multiple processors, and the Multiprocessing API library is built into the System file. Granted, this doesn't give you the same simplicity and transparency as OS X or another UN*X, but it is very much native. The bulk of OS9 runs as one of several preemptively scheduled tasks, 'blue', all the time (even on a single processor).
    Apple has flirted with duals since 1996's 9600 MP
    9500MP August 1996, introduced only three months after the first multiprocessor MacOS machine, the Daystar Genesis MP - both products the result of Apple/Daystar collaboration. The 9600 didn't arrive until 1997.
  • I'd love to see a Beowulf of... oh, wait. Never mind.

  • No one ever did, and Mac users are a loyal bunch. The hockey puck was one of the worst mouse designs Apple ever cooked up, just as the current optical mouse is one of the best (I still won't use one, though -- I need two buttons).

  • Rackmount cases are expensive. I've never seen one for less than $250. Meanwhile, you can get cheap minitower cases for maybe $50 (or less) and just stick them all on a $40 utility shelf system from Home Depot. (Granted, this might be a bad idea in, say, California :-) )

    I think if I was building a cluster system that would be the way I'd go unless I had to impress people with photographs (though undoubtedly row after row of G4 boxen would do that equally easily :-) ). Racks cost big money.

  • Geez, give somebody a bridge to live under...

    First off, there was a good reason to hype the optical mouse: everyone was laughing about the hockey puck and Apple wanted to show the world they'd not only fixed the problem, but they'd found a more elegant way to do it. And frankly, I hate the Intellimouse anyway -- a mouse does not need to be that big. (And fwiw I think Sun and/or Mouse Systems was doing optical a long time ago -- they just needed special mouse pads at the time.)

    Built-in Ethernet first showed up on the Blackbird (5xx) series in 1993 or so. It disappeared from the 5300s and was brought back in the 1400s and has been standard equipment in every Powerbook since. I don't know if they invented it, but they were doing it a long time ago.

    The rest of your statement is too silly for a response.

  • And I am a registered user and you're an AC -- who's handwaving?

    On the Mac, you don't have to jump through hoops to take over the processor, you just do it. That makes it rather tricky at times to deal with when writing end user code, but it's no problem at all if you need to run the system headless. You run your code with no interference whatsoever from the OS. (That's how much like you get a non-MacOS operating system run on a pre-PCI system, btw. You simply write a "bootloader" that takes over and says "everybody out of the pool", then install your own code over the (unprotected) memory space you just cleaned out.)

    You know, calling someone an idiot in a technical dispute isn't really becoming. Why don't you step out from behind the LoserHandle and explain yourself?

  • I have a 6500 minitower myself. I think it's pretty slick for beige and I keep it on my desk...

  • And 'they' can even do that on OS X, of course...

    Actually, I don't believe Sherlock does regexps (though it's not half bad as a search engine), but a lot of editing programs on the Mac (especially BBEdit) do. It's not quite the same, but hey...

    And as for burning CDs... You might want to look into, say, Toast (3d party, but...) or iTunes 1.1, because I have a Yamaha CRW8824 that might take issue with that...

  • by connorbd ( 151811 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @09:04AM (#217436) Homepage
    I rather like your statement about old-line Mac users, though we Mac folks are inclined to consider IBM the good guys these days :-)

    Those AppleSeeds are actually pretty nice hardware; I've read the technical report on the original and it's actually a better design than a Beowulf. MacOS Classic's cooperative multitasking is actually a plus in this arena as it means that your computation code can completely take over the system and grind away. If you really want to have some fun, though, write a lightweight bootloader that emulates just enough MacOS and MPI to get the job done; you don't need the GUI overhead for a cluster anyway.

    I would make two changes to the design, though: I'd use OS X as a front-end system (since you're not doing much computation on the coordinating server, I'm sure) and I'd start calling the clusters Apple *Orchards*...

  • On the Appleseed page, there are graphs in which they usually include the Cray T3E 900...including "single processor performance." I'm sorry, but...huh? When have you ever heard of a T3E with just ONE processor? Or 4 or 8 for that matter?

    Okay, I get that they're trying to make it look better by comparing it with something completely out of it's league, to turn people who would just be using a bit of time on some big iron to having their own personal power playground...but lets be more fair, and see some stats comparing 100 Mac clusters to 100 CPU Crays. More realistic.
  • I usually consider a G4 to be 2x as fast as a PIII or Duron, clock for clock. Details in what you're doing and who coded your app make a huge difference, however. So do things like having enough RAM to never, ever hit the HD.

    The G3 is essentially just as fast as the G4 for nonAlitVec ops - although it was actually MORE expensive when you could buy both at comparable speeds.

    Tbirds and PIVs are faster than PIIIs, duh. How much? anywhere between nothing and 50%, probably.

    AFAIK, the G3/G4 already has a 64bit pipe - and imo that accounts for most of the big differences. Most of the Apples are now PC standard. The best thing Apple did was let you buy PC100 RAM for cheap, and have it work.

  • by iphayd ( 170761 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @04:58AM (#217447) Homepage Journal
    >Wouldn't it be cheaper to do this with a bunch of
    >PC's in stead? Not as pretty but it's someones
    >tax dollars that pay for these...

    This myth has gone on enough. Every TCO study around shows that Macs are cheaper than PCs. Most of the TCO of a computer is the support time and training, NOT the purchase price of the hardware/software.

    Macs require less support staff, for more computers. If I recall correctly, Intel has one IT person for every 30 computers. Except in their graphics dept, where they have 1 support person for all 300 Macs.

    Because the Mac's interface is more standard across most applications, when you train on one app, that training can be utilized in other apps. This means that you get better training than if you have to train for every app.

    It was recently figured that the difference averages between $400-1000 per machine, per year.

    If you want to save your company $, you'd switch to Macs, but noone will do that, because it would cost (at least) half of your IT support their jobs.
  • Well, i'm not a native english speaker, thus i have to look up the word cluster in the dictionary, to get its real meaning. And this tells me, a cluster is nothing more then an amassment of something, and in this case of apples :)

    OTOH there is some saying here at my place: "Fremdwörter immer falsch verwenden ..." use foreign words always in the wrong sense ... - 'cos everybody's doing so.
  • How can they say that this is the worlds fastest Mac cluster when they haven't benchmarked my cluster of 2,000 derelict Mac 68020s strung together with Appletalk and Duct Tape??
  • by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @04:02AM (#217457) Journal
    Did you notice the following statement at the bottom:
    Note: To build a Beowulf, a Linux-based cluster, we think the following 230-page book is an excellent introduction: T. L. Sterling, J. Salmon, D. J. Becker, and D. F. Savarese,How to Build a Beowulf, [MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA, 1999
    I think they are making fun of the difficulty of building a Beowulf cluster since they refer to the 250 page book at the end of their single page OS 9 clustering guide.
  • by Ando[evilmedic] ( 199537 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @04:30AM (#217458) Homepage
    Why the hell they're using Fast Ethernet is beyond me. If you're going to shell out the money for 16 dual G4s, why wouldn't you spend the extra money and install gigabit networking? Or does 100Mbps suit the purpose fine.

    - Ando
    You are the weakest link, goodbye.
  • by glebite ( 206150 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:57AM (#217460)

    What about calling it an orchard?

  • by KarmaPolice ( 212543 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:32AM (#217461) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be cheaper to do this with a bunch of PC's in stead? Not as pretty but it's someones tax dollars that pay for these...
  • Well, as the other replies said:

    It took them considerably less than a day.

    That is actually an achievement. As far as I can tell, the costs of personnel dwarf the costs of hardware, where an engineer costs upwards of $800 a day, and engineers sitting idle costs as much as engineers busy doing work, so the cost deltas of the Macs is offset by the speed and effectiveness of setting up and maintaining the array.

    In the long run, it's not the fixed, sunk costs that a PC represents that is meaningful, it's the daily ongoing performance, productivity, and maintanence costs that mean anything, especially in a place that runs plasma tokamaks at $125k a day...

    Geek dating! []
  • How about time?
    Say it takes N people 1 day to set up the Appleseed vs the same N people 1 week to set up the Linux array?

    What's 7 days worth of time? $300*N a day? $4k*N a day? While price is a legitamate concern, so is time to ramp and operating costs, and from what I've seen, the costs of an engineer and of support staff dwarf the costs of a PC; what's $800 when your engineer makes that much in a day? So 3 days where the array is not spent computing is 3 days where you're paying for no work done.

    Geek dating! []
  • I worked on a Beowulf "array" last semester, and I beg to differ. In fact, our Beowulf has all the features and capabilities you mention. Many of them arrise in the ways you use the parallel API (in our case, MPICH) to build software. Others are directly supported by the Scyld Beowulf Linux distribution.
    • Distributed Lock Manager: locks can be simulated with certain types of MPI messages.
    • Cluster-wide File System: use MPI to pass data back and forth between nodes, including instructions on where to write the data. Not only is there a cluster-wide file system, it's a customizeable cluster-wide file system!
    • Process control: Scyld's bproc allows all processes to appear as if they are running on the master node. You can also move processes between nodes transparently with this.
    • Connection manager: Scyld provides this to some degree. You can do remote shutdown/startup of nodes or groups of nodes.
    • Shared System Disk: well, nodes bootstrap from thier own drives, but download a new kernal image from the master node on bootup. They also pull down libraries from the masternode on bootup.
    • Single security and management domain: permissions are the same on the slave nodes as they are on the master. But the slave nodes are truely compute nodes, and permissions there matter little, except for data files.
    • Cluster wide process control: you said it. Beowulfs do it.
    • Mixed Architecture: what you can do depends on your cluster. For a mixed Mac/Alpha/x86 cluster, you'd have to have different executables for each node. I'm sure there's Beowulf software that lets you do this, but for ours we don't need it (all Athlons.)
    • Rolling Upgrade Support: yup. Acually, with Scyld, if you reboot a node, it will come back up with the newest configuration, imaged off the master node.
    • Parallel IO support: simulated/managed through MPI pretty easily. Set up "IO" nodes and let them handle it.
    • Interconnect failover: networking on a Beowulf is up to you. We use a high-performance switch and some channel bonding. It can be done.
    • High-end scaling: Beowulf? "OK?" Have you ever heard of ASCI-Red? []
    • Load Balancing: ours does round robin scheduling of jobs, but it usually doesn't utilize the higher number nodes unless you run a job that requests a large number of nodes. We wish for better control, but this works pretty well.
    • Cluster Alias: yeah, what you said. :)
    Anyway, the URL for our machine is []. It's up to 64 nodes right now, even though I don't think the site mentions that.

  • by 3G ( 220614 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:27AM (#217471)
    "While I think this is a sweet application of technology, it continuously galls me to see the misuse of the term cluster when applied to distributed parallel computing arrays such as AppleSeed or Beowulf. These are not clusters! There is no distributed lock manager present, no hardware-level device sharing (as opposed to software-level file sharing a la AFT, SMB, or NFS), no means of transparently starting, controlling, and stopping any process (not just those written to a custom API) on any node from any other node. While an excellant and usefull technology, this has a long way to go before it could be considered a true cluster..."
  • by 3G ( 220614 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @03:43AM (#217472)
    The G4s that Apple sells don't come in a rackmount config, but you can put them into one [] pretty easily.
  • UM... wait. I've been a PC fan forever but I had to work at a Graphics comany that (you guessed it ) had MACs. Have you ever seen the workings of the strange and lovely towers on MACs? theres a funny looking green button on the top....push it the whole thing opens into 3 panels filled with all the hardware. Your motherbooard is ope and right in front of you the drives are on the right with the wiring all neetly placed in rail. other stuff and card all all organized around eachother. RAM, CPU, CARD, AND DRIVES are EASY to add and replace! It realy beats the pants of any lame PC layout for a box. I-MACs are a differant thing all together and I've never opened one.
  • Were they really the first? What? to cluster OS X, or to use MAC Hardware in a cluster? I agree it's a neat deal, buy I'd also have to agree they probably did it for the press.

  • You'd need so many of them that the overhead of putting a power supply on each machine would bump the cost way above that of the Apple hardware.

    If you used P3/ P4/ Athlon machines, then you'd have a much cheaper cluster.

  • Once you get above the nasty low end machines they take time to deburr the stampings.

    So you put your clone hardware in the $79 case instead of the $39 case. Okay, that's $40 of a price difference. What accounts for the $800 difference on the invoice of your 'Higher Quality System'? The color badge on the brand name box? The Television Commercial? The full page magazine ads??
  • Amoeba [] which is now freely available for anybody to use.
  • by glenmark ( 446320 ) on Thursday May 17, 2001 @06:35AM (#217508) Homepage

    I am said "cluck" (odd term).

    I don't know about old (I'm 33), but I am a bitter VMS system manager. As I've repeated on this forum many times before (just about any time a story about Beowulf or AppleSeed is posted), that bitterness stems from usage of the word "cluster" in contexts which fall far afield from the original usage of the term by the inventors of clustering, DIGITAL's VMS Engineering team, thus diluting the meaning of the term. The casual application of the term to distributed parallel computation arrays, web server farms, or other RAICs (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Computers) incorectly leads many computing neophytes to believe that simply setting up a Beowulf array (much better term for this than cluster) or something similar gives them the same level of technological functionality as that provided by a state-of-the-art OpenVMS cluster. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    "What's missing?", one might ask. Here is what I feel constitutes a cluster. (Note -- none of this is meant as flame-bait - just trying to rectify some misinformation which has become pervasive over the last few years. I regard Beowulf and AppleSeed as useful tools. I simply feel that it is inappropriate to refer to them as clusters.)

    • A Distributed Lock Manager, critical for much clustering functionality. All file operations, regardless of whether using standard C I/O routines or OS-specific I/O APIs, should automatically and transparently be mediated by the DLM. Without this functionality, one is left with a so-called "share-nothing" cluster, such as that available from Microsoft, thus limiting one to simple failover operation.
    • Cluster-wide File System. No file server such as NFS, SMB, or AppleShare involved here. All nodes in the cluster should be able to directly access any disk or tape drive in the cluster. The DLM is critical here for mediating simultaneous accesses.
    • Cluster-wide process control, either directly spawing processes on other nodes or through a batch queue system.
    • A Connection Manager to ensure that nodes correctly enter or leave the cluster. The CM manages the Quorum mechanism and keeps cluster transition times to a minimum.
    • Shared System Disk. Multiple nodes should be able to boot from a common system disk. This greatly simplifies management.
    • Single security and management domain. NT almost got that right, except for the dependance upon domain controllers and that domain database replication nonsense. Many flavors of *nix can be configured to get into the ballpark on this with add-on tools. If one can't transparently manage any node in the cluster from any other node, you don't have a cluster (and I'm not talking about something as trivial as spawning a new Telnet session).
    • Cluster-wide Process Control API. At least Beowulf and AppleSeed provide this much, which is a step in the right direction, although the API used is a bit primative.
    • Mixed Architecture Support. Shouldn't matter what hardware a given node is running on, as long as it is supported by the OS and the applications. All cluster communications protocols should be platform-neutral. Just out of curiosity, can one mix ix86, Alpha, and PPC nodes in a Beowulf array, thereby giving one the ability to divy up processing chores based upon which processor is best suited to a given task (Floating Point vs. Integer speeds for instance) or for gradual migration of the array to a different platform? (This isn't flambait -- I'm honestly curious.)
    • Rolling Upgrade Support. It should be possible to configure a cluster such that one can perform OS or application upgrades some number of nodes at a time, thus negating the need to bring down the entire cluster.
    • Parallel I/O support. All nodes can issue I/O requests to storage devices at the same time. This ties back in with the DLM and Cluster-wide file system.
    • Interconnect failover. All cluster communications traffic should route itself through whatever interconnect pathway has the lowest latency. (Hmmm, FiberChannel is a bit congested right now. Time to route through the 100baseT connection.)
    • High-end scaling. This is where I snicker at NT's so-called clustering solution. Two nodes only? Hah? (That is finally improving, but they still have a long way to go.) Beowulf and AppleSeed do okay in this department, although they have nothing that compares to the Galaxy Software Architecture [].
    • Load Balancing. Generically available to most server operating systems these days, although usually through a separate hardware based unit.
    • Cluster Alias. Can be faked for any OS with DNS tricks or by sticking the cluster or array behind a NAT router.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford