Wired Article Features PowerMac Based Super Clusters

A wired article that ostensibly focuses on Appleis new PowerMac towers actually shines more of a spotlight on the benefits and ease of use of clustering Appleis product line. Clustering is the name given to building parallel super computers by using many off-the-shelf normal PCs. The Wired article talks about the AppleSeed project which uses Open Transport and Mac OS X to quickly and easily build very powerful super computers out of PowerMacs. According to the AppleSeed folks quoted in he article, it is so easy to do this with Appleis technology that you only need one page of instructions. From the article:

A few years ago, Decyk and a pair of colleagues began playing around with G3 Macintoshes and were impressed with their performance.

"Not only was the performance faster than the Pentiums but it was comparable to the performance achieved on some Crays," the team said in a report. Further investigation showed that Macs are very easy to hook into parallel clusters and perform extremely well, thanks to the PowerPC chips and Mac OS X.

Clusters are becoming an increasingly common way to perform supercomputer tasks on the cheap. Simply hook up a bunch of off-the-shelf computers and set them to work in parallel on complex problems. Most clusters are based on Pentium machines that run Linux. But according to Dauger, Linux clusters require a PhD to set up and to run. By contrast, Mac clusters are so easy to make, even 11-year-olds can do it.

"Thereis a book called How to Build a Better Beowulf thatis 230 pages long and tells you how to set up clusters with Linux," Dauger said. "We have a one-page manual (PDF) that shows you how to do it on PowerMacs. Weive had high school students do it. Weive had junior high school students do it. We even had a sixth grader in Hawaii do it."

"It took NASAis Jet Propulsion Laboratory two weeks to put together a 16-node Linux cluster." he added. "I could do the same thing in less than an hour."

Dauger added that Linux clusters are extremely fragile: If all the machines in the cluster arenit running the same version of the kernel, everything grinds to a halt. By contrast, a Macintosh cluster can be made from a mix of G3 and G4 Macs running Mac OS 9 or X.

There is a lot more information on the subject in the full article, and we recommend it as a good read. Thanks to TMO Forum member rjung for pointing us to this article.