An Apple Supercomputer?

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple they'll soon be turning the tech world upside down by introducing a new level of computer performance by focusing their energies on something called 'parallel computing'.

There's a certain irony in this. Supercomputers are stacking up PCs to get their performance while PCs are using supercomputing methods to get boost theirs.

Just this week, IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced the first "petaflop" computer (named 'Roadrunner') that is, essentially, an armada of PCs working in parallel. The new machine is capable of performing more than 1,000 trillion operations per second. This is more than twice the speed of what had been the fastest computer, IBM's Blue Gene computer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. To get that speed, they used 13,000 of IBM's Cell engines, the same engine used for the Playstation 3 game console, and then threw in 7,000 AMD Dual Core Opteron processors just for the effect. All of it is glued together with a Linux-based supervisor. (Source:

Apple is focused on using supercomputer methods within its PCs. Since chipmakers are having difficulties boosting processor speeds that won't self-destruct from their own heat, PC manufacturers have to look elsewhere to get big performance gains. In Apple's case, "elsewhere" means developing new machines based on parallel computing.

To some extent, parallel computing is already utilized in PCs. Graphic processors are separate processors that work in parallel with the PC's main processor. But Apple is going beyond this, by focusing on the addition of a new parallel-programming technology breakthrough. The new technology is codenamed 'Grand Central' and it will work within their Mac OS X operating system. The new version of Mac OS X using this technology is dubbed 'Snow Leopard'.

Apple has made it clear that they are going to delay development of new OS X features until they can address some of the foundation issues that will enable a new level of computing performance. The effect may be that the next generation of Apple computers looks quite different from existing PCs. However, Apple has made its name by being quite different. (Source:

Who knows? If Apple can pull this off, maybe the next petaflop breakthrough will be built on thousands of Macintosh computers. That would be quite different.

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