Virginia Tech Xserve G5 Cluster Hits 12.25 Teraflops

Virginia Tech announced early Tuesday that its recently rebuilt Mac supercomputer cluster is now operating at 12.25 12 trillion operations per second, or teraflops, a speed increase of 20% over the previous official record of 10.28 teraflops. The new benchmark would put System X in fourth place in the current world ratings, but it will probably be surpassed by new supercomputers in an updated list due out next month.

System X was originally built from 1,100 standard desktop Power Mac G5s. In the past few months, the system has been upgraded to 1,100 dual 2.3GHz Xserve G5s, making the system 15% faster than the desktop machines they replaced. Virginia Tech announced in January that it planned to migrate its cluster of Power Mac G5s to Xserve G5s after negotiating an exclusive deal with Apple to produce the custom built Macs. Apple said the configuration was developed specifically for Virginia Tech, and that it currently has no plans to offer 2.3GHz processors in its Xserve G5 line.

The additional cost to rebuild System X was about $600,000, which included 50 additional nodes. The company said the original cost of System X was $5.2 million.

Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan stands in front of Virginia Techis Xserve 5-based supercomputer, System X, which now operates at 12 teraflops. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech)

"We believed that we could build a very high performance machine for a fifth to a tenth of the cost of what supercomputers now cost, and we did," said Hassan Aref, dean of Virginia Techis College of Engineering. "And we wanted to have our own supercomputer to use for ICTAS, where we will be conducting multidisciplinary work on such topics as nanoelectronics, aerodynamics, and the molecular modeling of proteins. With this machine, our researchers will be able to build computer modeling in days, not years."

All that is left now for Virginia Tech is to wait for their new ranking among the top 500 supercomputing sites. That list will be released at the at SuperComputing 2004 conference in Pittsburgh, Penn. on November . "We expect to do well," said Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan, the lead designer of the Virginia Tech system.

Still the fastest academic supercomputer on earth, Dr. Varadarajan did admit that System X will likely get bumped into sixth or seventh position by bigger, faster, and more expensive systems.

"We expect to be in the top 10," said Dr. Varadarajan. "Where, we donit know. Top five is not possible, probably. We really donit know where weill show up."