Virginia Tech PowerMac G5 Cluster Photos

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Sat Sep 20 15:23:04 EDT 2003

On Sat, 20 Sep 2003, Jeffrey B. Layton wrote:

> take at least 92 racks!
> Yep, inexpensive, _custom_ racks (as much an oxymoron
> as military intelligence as I've heard). If they charge $1000
> a rack (pretty cheap IMHO), then there's almost $1 million

Ummm, 92 x 1000 = ?

Don't feel bad.  I do the same thing all the time.

> for the racks out of a stated $5 million. OK, should we have
> a pool or a poll on who's bankrolling this thing?

Somebody with very deep pockets.  Liquid cooled racks are probably a lot
more expensive than $1000 each, but one really should likely lump the
power, cooling, racks, and room all together as "base infrastructure"
and sure, $1M isn't a crazy estimate for that.

That leaves $4M for systems and (possibly) for humans, service
agreements, electricity, and more.

The power capacity also does not compute wrt their existing
configuration.  1000 300W nodes is only 300 KW.  Even if the nodes run
at 500W each (which would be insanely hot IMHO at 250 W/processor --
about as much as a loaded dual athlon PER PROCESSOR, and enough to make
even an Alpha seem cool) it is only 500 KW.  Add half again for AC and
miscellaneous, and they are still only up to 750 KW (which costs them
roughly $500,000/year as an ongoing operating expense.  They've got a
factor of four surplus power capacity (if not more like six).  They must
be planning ahead to upgrade those racks with real rackmounts at
quadruple the power/compute density during the lifetime of the facility.

Assuming a three year grant cycle, $2M for infrastructure and power and
(probably) salaries, they've got $3M left for nodes, which works out
order of $3K/node.  This doesn't sound too insane, but I don't really
know the prices of these nodes.

Apple has been pushing these nodes for doing bioinformatics and gene
cataloguing, so my dollar is on NIH.  I doubt NSA or DOE or NSF -- its a
bit rich for NSF, DOE tends to be conservative, NSA tends to run their
own stuff.  DOD is always a possibility, but any of the latter agencies
I think would be less inclined to fund an Apple cluster with such a
ticklish (liquid cooled) base design.  Whoever it is, they expect to go
back to the well, I betcha, when rackmounts become available, or else
their architect's brother sells big generators and overkill facilities


> Jeff
> P.S. Andrew - thanks for the link.
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Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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