VA Tech's Improved System X Assembly Complete, Photos Posted

Virginia Tech, as every Apple watcher knows, is home to System X, which has the distinction of being the third fastest supercomputer in the world. Apple watchers know this because System X, otherwise known as iBig Maci, is made up of 1100 dual processor G5 Power Macs, all ganged together to create one very large, very fast, but relatively inexpensive number cruncher.

The only thing that could make System X better would be to replace the G5 Power Macs with the latest and greatest G5 based Xserves; doing so would reduce the floor space require to host System X, reduce the power needed to run the supercomputer, and it might possibly allow the newly revitalize Big Mac to push out a few extra million instruction per second (mips) and further solidify its membership into the fastest of the fastest computer club.

Virginia Tech is doing just that; is had started work on upgrading System X with 1100 G5 Xserves, and now, according to the the System X System Status, the assembly of the new supercomputer is done and work is now in progress to get the system up and running, then ultimately to benchmark it again.

Work in progress

"Good Morning Dave"

From the Virginia Tech System X web page:

An army of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, administrators, university IT staff, and just people who wanted to help descended on the information systems building and helped us process 1100 Power Mac G5s into the racks. Armed with screw drivers (and a cool new t-shirt) and fueled by pizza, these enthusiastic volunteers did some amazing things. We had to boot, shutdown, open, install, close, and then boot again each system we received to check to make sure they worked before we racked them. With a crew of about 30 we processed 234 machines from truck to rack in less than 2 hours!

On September 23, 2003 we turned it all on and began the arduous process of stabilizing and benchmarking this machine. After many more sleepless nights and countless grams of caffeine we finally reached our 10 teraflop goal.

Well with the concept proven we now had to make sure we had a system capable of conducting scientific computation. We needed to upgrade the system to something with error correcting code (ECC) RAM. The Power Macs did not support it and the XServes were coming. So in January we tore the system down and started prepping for the XServes. And now theyire here and we have our final system. The best is yet to come.

The Virginia Tech website also has posted some very interesting pictures of the upgrade process, and we encourage you to stop by for a look.