Apple Joins Big Unix Server Race with Xserve G5 and Xgrid

Apple claims the new server packs about 60 percent more punch that the previous G4.

There was some swagger at Apple’s MacWorld Expo as it released its range topping Unix server, the Xserve G5 dual processor PowerPC based machine, that delivers 30 Gigaflops of mathematical power. Apple also previewed the Xgrid clustering technology that will turn the Xserve G5 it into a supercomputer, with Oracle backing the device with its grid-enabled 10g database first in line to run on it.

Apple said Xgrid can help scientists and others working in compute-intensive environments to fully utilize all IT resources, including desktops and servers, by creating a grid enabled “virtual” IT environment that takes advantage of unused computing capacity to run batch and workload processing.

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The company says the new server packs about 60 percent more punch that the previous G4, and has already been used to create the world’s third largest supercomputer—at Virginia Tech.

The Xserve G5 includes a system controller with up to 8GB of memory; three hot-plug Serial ATA drives delivering up to 750GB of storage; optional internal hardware RAID; dual PCI-X slots, supporting 133 MHz PCI-X cards with over 1 GBps of throughput; and dual on-board Gigabit Ethernet for high-performance networking. It starts at $2,999 and will be available in February.

Apple also offers a cluster node configuration specifically designed for high-performance computational clustering that delivers the compute performance of dual G5 processors without the cost of additional components, such as a CD-ROM drive.

Xserve G5 ships with an unlimited client edition of Mac OS X Server version 10.3 “Panther” software pre-installed. The Panther Server integrates leading open source software with easy-to-use management tools that make it easy to deploy Mac, Windows and Linux clients.

Apart from Oracle, Apple also pulled in support and commitments to port products from Wolfram Research, authors of the Mathematica computational engine, which has ported gridMathematica, and from Sybase, Xinet, Macromedia, Quark, and the Infiniband specialists Voltaire and Mellanox.

Apple previewed but didn’t actually launch Xgrid, its computational clustering technology, which comes from Apple’s Advanced Computation Group, and is available as a free beta download beginning yesterday. Apple reckons that this lets scientific users run such applications as the Blast genome matching system across multiple G5 systems.

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