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Technology (Apple) Technology Hardware

Big Mac Benchmark Drops to 7.4 TFlops 417

coolmacdude writes "Well it seems that the early estimates were a bit overzealous. According to preliminary test results (in postscript format) on the full range of CPUs at Virginia Tech, the Rmax score on Linpack comes in at around 7.4 TFlops. This puts it at number four on the Top 500 List. It also represents an efficiency of about 44 percent, down from the previous result of 80 achieved on a subset of the computers. Perhaps in light of this, apparantly VT is now planning to devote an additional two months to improve the stability and efficiency of the system before any research can begin. While these numbers will no doubt come as a disappointment for Mac zealots who wanted to blow away all the Intel machines, it should still be noted that this is the best price/performance ratio ever achieved on a supercomputer. In addition, the project was successful at meeting VT's goal of developing an inexpensive top 5 machine. The results have also been posted at Ars Technica's openforum."
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Big Mac Benchmark Drops to 7.4 TFlops

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  • by bluethundr ( 562578 ) * on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:09PM (#7283258) Homepage Journal

    I've always been sort of intrigued by ,a href="">Top500. Has there ever been a good comparison written about the similarities/differences between a 'supercomputer' and the lowly pc sitting on my desk running Linux/XP? At what point does the computer in question earn the title "Super"?
  • by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:13PM (#7283308) Journal
    I wonder how dual Xeon boxes would do using Infiniband? Probably a lot better than they're doing at the moment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:16PM (#7283338)
    Well, when Apple was advertising their computers as "supercomputers", they were using the U.S. Government's definition. Any computer that could perform 1 gigaflops or higher was classified as a weapon. Of course, just about any general purpose processor (as in intended for a general purpose computer) manufactured since 2000 has been able to do that, so the definition has probably changed.

    I always found it interesting that it was illegal to export Macs for quite some time because thye were classified as weapons.
  • by Evil Adrian ( 253301 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:18PM (#7283357) Homepage
    Officials at the school said that they were still finalizing their results and that the final speed number might be significantly higher.

    This will likely be the case.

    Why is this likely? The number dropped, why is it more likely to go up rather than down (or nowhere, for that matter)?
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:19PM (#7283363) Homepage Journal
    While these numbers will no doubt come as a disappointment for Mac zealots who wanted to blow away all the Intel machines, it should still be noted that this is the best price/performance ratio ever achieved on a supercomputer.

    It still bests all other Intel hardware with only the Alpha hardware on top. And given the CPU count, even the Alpha hardware does not match it. Look at the numbers.....The Linux based 2.4Ghz cluster has almost 200 more CPU's on board with a 217 Gflop/sec difference. The Alpha clusters are running anywhere from 1,984 to 6,048 more CPU's.

  • Moore's Law applied (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moof-hoof ( 678977 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:34PM (#7283517) should still be noted that this is the best price/performance ratio ever achieved on a supercomputer.

    Yes, but doesn't Moore's Law and the commodification of computer hardware suggest that each new generation supercomputer will have the best price/performance ratio?

  • Price vs Preformance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Metex ( 302736 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:37PM (#7283546) Homepage
    While I am amazed at the initial price vs preformance that this cluster of macs have obtained I am worried about the eventual cost all the electricity and cooling will be for the cluster. I remeber reading in some random article that the electricity used to cool and power the computer was extimated around 3,000 midrange homes. Just from a quick calculation of homes x $100 x 12 months we get the horrible figure of 3.6mil. So over a 10 year lifespan of the cluster it will cost 36mil more the the current price.

    While it is still cheaper then the original cost of Intell or IBM super computers I personaly would rather spend more and waste alot less electricity, since if I remeber correctly the cost of engery for comparable super computers was in the range of 0.5 mil-1 mil. Although they are stationed in other countries so the cost of electricity could be dramaticly less in japan then in america but I doubt it. Someone should really get the kW per hour used by the top 5 super computers and then calculate the price per year based on that.
  • Re:Big mac cluster.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:46PM (#7283633)
    How calories work [].
  • by defl8ed ( 690375 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:51PM (#7283670) Journal
    Yes, the G5 should be capable of more than a little better performance than "a Xeon", but what I find interesting is that it is a Xeon which was initially released well over a year ago by Intel. What I am curious about is if someone could build an equally "cost-efficient" super computer based on more recent intel hardware. The differences in speed, cache, front side bus, etc. that Intel has made in the past year would no doubt lead to higher numbers. If I were comparing a Xeon Cluster to a G4 cluster, people would scream that it's apples and oranges - why does the same not hold true for intel CPUs?
  • by Jungle guy ( 567570 ) <brunolmailbox-ge ...> on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:56PM (#7283718) Journal
    Jack Dongarra says that a "supercomputer" is simply a computer that, for todays's standards, is REALLY fast. I saw one presentation from him, and he said he run the Linpack benchmark on his notebook (2.4 GHz Pentium 4) and it would get to the bottom of the Top500 list in 1992. So, this supercomputer definition is very fluid.
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) * on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:57PM (#7283725) Journal
    Because the Power4 is hotter and uses more current than the G5. To use 2200 Power 4 CPUs they would have to about triple the cooling capacity of the room. For all the heat and power, the Power4 lacks the AltiVec units that allow the G4/G5 to process vector operations so quickly.

    The G5 is also significantly lower cost than the Power4
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @04:23PM (#7284041)
    I think that magazine article must be wrong. If 1100 Macs use as much power as 3000 homes, then each mac is using about 3 houses worth of power. That seems excessive unless the home is in a 3rd world country or those 9 fans are really really running full blast. More likely, each G5 (with networking and cooling equipment) uses a few hundred watts. Even at 500 W/Mac, 1100 Macs, $0.15/kWH, 24 Hr/day, 365 day/year the cluster costs about $722,700/year. More likely, each Mac probably only consumes an average of 300 W max and is not running full tilt 24x7, so the cost is maybe around $300-$400k/year.

    But your point is a good one. I often wonder about the environmental economics of people running SETI, Folding@Home, etc. on older machines. Most of those older "spare" CPU-cycles are quite costly in terms of electricity relative to newer faster machines that do an order of magnitude more computing with the same amount of electricity.
  • seti@home not listed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suitti ( 447395 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @05:09PM (#7284530) Homepage
    The 21st version of this list does not
    show the SETI@Home project. The top entry
    is NEC at 35 terraflops. Today's SETI@Home
    average for the last 24 hours is 61 terraflops.
    It may be a virtual supercomputer, but it
    is producing real results.
  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @06:07PM (#7285072) Homepage
    Hopefully, Steve Jobs is listening to all the praise being heaped upon the G5. That the G5 is a component of one of the fastest supercomputers in the world should be a "super" big hint for Jobs to start producing a workstation version of the G5. Call it the "G5-W", packed with error-correcting code (ECC) memory. It runs either MacOS-X or Linux. Linux is the default.

    Target the G5 at the consumer market. Target the G5-W at the engineering/high-performance market.

    Amazingly, thanks to Apple, the PowerPC architecture has the best chance of capturing a sizeable share of the workstation market, obliterating any remaining UltraSPARC workstations. Apple has a damned good chance if only Steve Jobs doesn't blow it.

    ... from the desk of the reporter []

  • by amper ( 33785 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @07:59PM (#7285958) Journal
    Is the things you can find out by looking at the whole list.


    The highest rated "classified" computer in the US is only at #44, a Cray with 1900 processors that clocks in at "only" 1166 GFlops. One can assume that it resides at NSA. Does anyone really believe that NSA would be using such a relatively "slow" supercomputer. Piffle. The faster ones are probably so classifed that no one without a very high security clearance even knows they were built.

    Avon Products apparently has a supercomputer that can do 277 GFlops (#456 on the list). Just what on God's Green Earth does Avon need with a supercomputer that makes the Top 500? Studying flow patterns in cosmetics? Data mining the Avon Ladies? Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

    BMW apparently spends a whole lot of money on HP super computers, with 12 on the list (unless I missed any--#'s 225, 243, 244, 322, 323, 324, 331, 342, 417, 418, 429, and 485), with a combined processing power of 4188.6 GFlops, and that was all installed in the past three years. With all that power, they still couldn't figure out that an embedded Windows OS for their flagship car was a bad idea...maybe they need to kick the F1 team off the supercomputers for a while and let the production car guys in...
  • by tmattox ( 197485 ) <> on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @11:31PM (#7287484) Homepage
    I guess the original submission didn't see the slashdot article [] from August 23 about our KASY0 [] supercomputer breaking the $100 per GFLOPS barrier.

    KASY0 achieved 187.3 GFLOPS on the 64-bit floating point version of HPL, the same benchmark used on "Big Mac". While "Big Mac" is about 40 times faster on that benchmark, it is about 130 times the cost of KASY0 (~$40K vs ~$5200K). Considering the size difference, "Big Mac" is VERY impressive, but it can't claim to be the best price/performance supercomputer on the HPL benchmark.

    Note: KASY0 gets 482.6 GFLOPS (0.48 TFLOPS) on a 32-bit precision version of Linpack, satisfying our under $100 per GFLOPS claim [].

    Regardless, Virginia Tech's "Big Mac" is a very impressive machine. My congratulations to them!

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer