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Technology (Apple) Businesses Apple Technology

Apple Releases Cluster Node Xserve 57

JHromadka writes "Apple today released a cluster node version of its Xserve rackmount server. The Cluster Node is a dual 1.33GHz G4 that has 256 MB RAM, no optical drive, Gigabit Ethernet only on the logic board, no graphics card, and only 10 client licenses. Starting price is $2799, which is a grand less than the normal Xserve."
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Apple Releases Cluster Node Xserve

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  • Sounds like they are ready to start charging for upgrades right away!
    • Low base RAM configurations are a good thing in this case.

      Noone in their right minds buys RAM thru Apple, they charge insane markups. Having one supplier is convenient, but not worth that kind of price imho.

      This way, if someone buys a rack full of XServes, they can spend under $10K filling them up with ram instead of two or three times that buying preinstalled RAM from Apple.
    • There are lots of clustered applications that don't require huge amounts of RAM....and, as someone already pointed out, Apple RAM is expensive too.

  • 10 Client Licenses? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by absurdhero ( 614828 )
    What exactly does this mean? Doesn't Apple usually give unlimited client licenses or is there something different going on here? "10 client licenses" seems like something that you see on a windowsXP box.
    • by mcwetboy ( 561083 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @07:47PM (#5540563) Homepage Journal
      When bought separately, Mac OS X Server comes in two licences: 10-client ($499) and unlimited ($999). The cluster box simply comes with the smaller of the two licences.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, "1 client license" is what you'd see on a WinXP box. Or more likely hidden in paragraph 23 on page 18 of the EULA.
    • by heychris ( 587825 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @08:22PM (#5540760)
      To be specific, it's 10 AFP (Apple File Protocol) client licenses. SMB and NFS are unlimited. The "unlimited" version allows unlimited AFP connections (though I believe there is a technological limit of 500 or so per server).

      Of course, if you have OS X clients, you can always use SMB or NFS on the client to connect to an OS X server. Only OS 9 or lower Macs would use up the AFP client licenses. Go figure.


    • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @10:45PM (#5541525)
      As others have said, the "10-client" limitation is for AppleShare file sharing (Apple File Protocol, or AFP) connections only. Nothing else about the server is restricted or limited in any way.

      Sorry it can't be linked directly, but if you go to http://store.apple.com/, click "Apple Software" under "Software and Books" on the left, and scroll down to "Mac OS X Server v10.2 (10-User Lic.)", you will see:

      A 10 User license should be used if your server load is no more than 10 simultaneous file sharing connections (for more connections, please select the Unlimited license).
  • Configurability is always a good thing, and this specific package looks very attractive for people who want to do some fairly large scale low budget vector computing.

    By offering more processors for the dollar, this configuration really plays to the platform's strengths in computational clusters for applications that can use Altivec.
  • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @07:49PM (#5540575) Homepage
    Imagine a be... No. I can't say it. I won't.
  • Only one hard drive (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcwetboy ( 561083 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @07:50PM (#5540581) Homepage Journal
    Note also that the cluster node only comes with a single 60 GB hard drive (rather than four of them on the Xserve proper), and you can't BTO a bigger one at the Apple Store.
    • by xdfgf ( 460453 )
      I know little of cluster computing, but wouldn't you want a central storage solution like the Xraid [apple.com]? It does have pretty high I/O capabilities...
    • The whole point of cluster node is that you want it purely for the processing power of the node. The HD, video etc isn't important, typically it will have the OS and possibly the apps that it will run.

      My guess is that a lot of people will actually network boot them (if possible) and then run everything from there. This machine is designed for people who need extra grunt for processor intensive stuff such as Shake.

    • So buy a XServe RAID to go with it.
  • by lordpixel ( 22352 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @07:56PM (#5540616) Homepage

    Hey! Earlier today this page: XServe Design [apple.com] included a cool joke:

    Designed for the computational clusters and distributed applications, this Xserve configuration delivers high-density processing power without the server features you won't need in a cluster enviroment. A single drive bay offers space for the operating system, and there's no optical drive, which means the front panel can offer more ventilation.
    This does result in fewer blinkenlights. [Emphasis mine]

    I looked again, and now its gone. Spoilsports!. Did anyone cache the original? Its quoted here: At Macintouch [macintouch.com]. I swear I am not making this up!

    • Yeah I was wondering, does it run cooler/quieter than a standard XServe?

      Just wait until some freak with cash to spare sets up a cluster of these (no, not *that* kind of cluster) and runs SETI@home or one of those crypto-cracking things... interesting.
  • by kurosawdust ( 654754 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @07:58PM (#5540623)
    for some reason, I'm having difficulty imagining a beowulf cluster of these...
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @08:16PM (#5540726) Homepage Journal
    Imagine a single one of these, removed from the cluster.
  • good price (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @08:19PM (#5540742)
    Having built several clusters now I'd say this was close to an excellent price point. My experience is that cluster nodes tend to run about 900 to 1400 per cpu. You can get them for a lot less but not from manufactureres you know will be relaible. That is to say, joe blow might build cluster units just as good as IBMs for $300 each, but unless I can actually distiguish joe blow from sam blow (who builds sucky ones) I wont buy from joe blow. thus knowing something is relaible is as important as being reliable. reputation matters.

    When building a very large cluster this latter feature is massively important unless you have free sysadmin. dealing with failures is a crucial part of running a cluster. I've seen too many caseswhere the individual units work fine but overheat in a cluster or have too much down time or some fraction of the units fail more often. I'll pay double for reliability and in fact the last two systems I did pay double and got reliability. (supermicro P4s and RLX blades)

    Stripping cluster units down is a good idea. having the fastes possible or most disk space system is not always important in a cluster. its throughput per dollar and reliability that count most. In my humble opinion P3s sometimes outperform p4s on relaibility and cost of ownership per throughput.

    many types of clusters dont require having even a local disk. One of the more important developments in the linux world is the linux boot and bproc (from Los Alamos) which allow a cluster to run without any moving parts other than the fans (no CD, floppy, or hardrives need ever be present). adding redundant powersupplies or better yet an external powersupply is yet another desirable feature.

    A while back I bought two xserves and they are built with impressive design standards and from what I can tell are highly reliable. They are super easy to sys admin and to keep pathced since apple provides easy to use tools.

    the main problem with the apple, and the reason I still use x86 linux boxes for my clusters has been the fact that sometimes there is one or two peices of code that I cant get for the PPC cluster. This is not a big deal just a nuicance. the other problem is the price to throughput ratio. If all of my code worked well with the altivec set my estimates convince me that the ppc smoke the x86 boxes of comparable qualiy in throughput per dollar. but if I dont compile well for the altivec set the PC win on price. Since my main apps arent written with the altivec in mind (they are in fortran and have branches inside loops), i'm hosed.

    what I have found is that the apples do make very cost cometitive disk servers when you include the total cost of ownership and high quality.

    • This is a good point. Right now programmers who need extra processing speed are going to be turned off by the relatively slow nature of the G4 and the slow FSB. Probably Apple is positioning these servers to prepare for something similar using the 970 and as a "stop gap" for those Mac users who need this but who can't wait for faster processors.

      For those writing custom software though, x86 clusters are probably more economical, if only because dual Xeons or dual Athalons are so much faster. Still it is

    • Re:good price (Score:4, Informative)

      by tbmaddux ( 145207 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2003 @09:16AM (#5543418) Homepage Journal
      Since my main apps arent written with the altivec in mind (they are in fortran and have branches inside loops), i'm hosed.
      Have you explored the use of Absoft's Fortran compiler [absoft.com] with the VAST vector/parallel libraries? Apparently it can automagically vectorize/parallelize [psu.edu] code for multiple G4 processors.

      I'm thinking about getting this for an upcoming project.

      • Re:good price (Score:4, Interesting)

        by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2003 @12:53PM (#5544718)
        Vast is a good program when it works. The best part Its fully automatic and fully trnasparent to the user. while human tweaking can do even better, to get a free 2x improvement (Vast claims this is typical) is great.

        in my case all of my loops were optimally bad for VAST to have an effect on.
        namely I am working with floating point and double 3D (3 coordinate) vectors. And the tight loop in the interior goes from 1 to 3. Also there are if-statements inside some of the loops.

        VAST works best when loops are several multiples of four in size. multiples of four are nice for optimal memeory boundary effects and for optimally utilizing the altivec. It works best on integers, pretty well on floats and hardly at all on doubles. Having if-statments in side loops kills it.

        I'm not perfectly positive about this but from reading the literature I believe VASTs handling of fortran seems sub-opmtial. what it really does is make calls to C-code from fortran, increasing the overhead. Otimizing C I think should work better than fortran.

        the other interesting thing is that one would think that fortan90 would be a fantastic language for the converting to altivec since it has syntaxes that allow out-of order loop evaluations. THus you may be surprised that VAST handles fortran 90 by first converting it to fortran 77!

        Speaking of fortran, My guess is that with the rise of vector processors and parallelprocessing that fortran95 is due for a small comeback inhigh performance computing. THe out-of-order loop handling is perfect for telling the compiler it can parallelize a section of code. (e.g. loops can be decalred that say let k span from 1 to 100 but I dont care what order k gets evaluated since all the steps are independent) And the simpler more direct access memory structures may help as well. fortran95 explicitly declares which variables in a subroutine call will or wont be modified by the call, again allowing a compiler to know it can count on varialbe not changing after a subroutine call. Thus one process can handle a subroutine evaluation while another skips ahead it and processed subsequent instructutions knowing which memory locations wont be changed by the concurrent subroutine call. Finally fortan95 can replace an if inside of a loop over an array with a precomputed memory map of which array elements to act on. again this allows for vectorization and parallelization.

        I believe that when people start using altivec opimized BLAS and Atlas libraries the altivec advantages in code will show up. The problem right now is that if you want to write protable code you are not going to write it specialized to the altivec. hence using the altivec is hard. having widespread optimized libraries is the solution.

  • For spicy rumors... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asparagus ( 29121 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ecnook]> on Wednesday March 19, 2003 @12:35AM (#5542005) Homepage Journal
    Apple's targeting using low-end hardware to tackle mid-range complexity tasks.

    Final Cut Pro 4 will come out next month. Shake 3.0 is also supposedly around the corner as well.

    Either of these programs, coupled with a XRaid and HD footage, will provide an interesting method for small vfx houses to tackle production.

    Anything that lowers the bar of entry is a good thing, IMO.

  • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2003 @01:29PM (#5545104)
    It's pretty obvious that Apple wants all of what SGI left behind. I don't blame them, it's where they should be. Check it out:

    - Transition to UNIXy OS complete
    - Xserve has appeared
    - Node clusters have appeared
    - Xraid
    - high-end video editing (Final Cut Pro)
    - high-end compositing software (Shake)
    - high-end audio production (Logic)
    - Maya support

    and let's not forget existing pieces:

    - QuickTime (now the basis of MPEG-4)
    - relationship with Adobe (Photoshop, et. al)
    - Avid (just ported Symphony to OS X)
    - the other big audio guys (MOTU etc.)

    They get that processor situation sorted out come July, they are poised to totally pull it off, too. The slow processor argument is the chief complaint about Apple. Take that away, and they are looking more impressive for content creators than anytime in their history.

    (Oh, and incidentally, on a personal note - just my opinion, don't flame me - the above are all reasons why Quark can go to hell.)

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