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IU Builds Apple Cluster for Super Computing Show [UPDATED]

IU Builds Apple Cluster for Super Computing Show [UPDATED]

by , 3:05 PM EST, November 12th, 2007

Under the direction of professor Andrew Lumsdaine, Indiana University has built an Apple Xserve cluster called "Red Delicious" to compete in the SC07 Cluster Challenge

This year's supercomputing conference is being held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The conference brings together the researchers from all over the world who showcase their developments in the art of supercomputers. Major attendees include the U.S. National Laboratories, universities and industry leaders in supercomputing and cluster hardware and software development.

"The Cluster Challenge was conceived of by Brent Gorda, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Chip Smith, of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. Over a year ago, these two men begin planning the event as a way showcase HPC, but more importantly, to provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to interact with cutting edge technology," said Andrew Lumsdaine, of the IU School of Informatics.

Six IU students, under the direction of Dr. Lumsdaine, "Team 500," have been involved in a semester-long hands on laboratory course developed around the goals of the challenge. "For the course, the students assembled the hardware, installed and administered the software, met with discipline scientists to learn about the HPC applications in the challenge, and gained an appreciation for the interactions and trade-offs involved in high-performance computing systems," said Dr. Lumsdaine.

At SC07, students will have to test and tune their cluster, then be given a suite of programs to benchmark. In addition to other rules, one stipulation is that the cluster must pull no more than 26 amps. Systems that pull more current will be penalized, and those that pull more than 30 will be disqualified. According to Rich Knepper with Indiana University's Information and Technical Services, the Apple Xserve was chosen for its superior performance to electrical power ratio.

The IU cluster, dubbed "Red Delicious" by the students is a nine node quad core Xeon Xserve system with two networks connecting the nodes: a 10 Gbps administrative network on a Fujitsu switch and a Myrinet (from Myricom) high speed switching fabric. Each Xserve compute node has 8 GB of RAM and is running Tiger Server.

Apple's education division provided technical assistance. Other IU sponsors included Intel, Fujitsu and Myricom. In addition, Chevron, Morgan Stanley, and Western Geco contributed significant financial resources to make the overall Cluster Challenge event possible.

A cluster of this size, likely in the 100+ gigaflops range, according to Mr. Knepper, would have been one of the fastest computers in the world ten years ago. One of the highlights of the SC show is its annual list of the fastest supercomputers in the world in its Top 500 list.

The results of the Challenge will be available later this week along with the Top500 results. This article will be updated when the results become available.

Apple started attending Supercomputing in 2000 in Dallas, however this is the first year since 2001 that Apple has not had its own booth at the show.

[This article was updated with additional information for clarity.]

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