Apple has published an introductory guide to using its Xgrid clustering software that shows new users how to set up Power Mac clusters.

'Xgrid: High performance computing for the rest of us' attempts to show who may benefit from using Xgrid, and how it can be set up and used. The company released Xgrid Preview 2 last week.

The piece also includes a selection of case study stories showing how Xgrid is used in different disciplines. These include real-life examples of the use of the clustering software at: the University of Utah; the Ontario Cancer Institute at the University of Toronto; the Center for Advanced Computation at Reed College; Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia and NASA's Langley Research Centre.

Simon Fraser University has used Xgrid in its exploration of a problem of finding low autocorrelation binary sequences. With the help of Xgrid, the group harnessed the computing power of machines in student labs at the university to create a system capable of processing at more than 30GHz. The results will be highlighted in an upcoming academic publication, Apple says.

'Free and easy' clustering

The leader of the project explains: "Xgrid has given us a tremendous number of essentially free and easy to cluster computer cycles on our lab Power Macs. It is a very efficient way to exploit our resources '24/7' on interesting research problems."

The Center for Advanced Computation at Reed College investigated whether Xgrid would work on public Macs, taking advantage of any available idle time.

They found that: "A user could sit at and use a machine and not know that they were working on a machine that was part of a grid." This small college has seventy-five Power Mac G5's that "typically spend up to three-quarters of their time doing nothing". Apple stresses that using Xgrid allowed the college to use this spare computational capacity.

The page also offers links to other resources pertaining to Xgrid. A PDF guide to the technologies used in Xgrid is also available from Apple.