The BBC has published a report looking at Deep Thought – the supercomputer cluster based on Power Mac G5s that's being built at Virginia Tech. The report says: "Arguably, Virginia Tech has revolutionized the world of supercomputing with a simplistic setup that can be duplicated around the globe by other institutions."

It adds that documents have been assembled to help others build similar clusters.

The report – complete with images – states that Deep Thought cost just $5 million to build, in comparison with the $100 million such systems have traditionally cost. It also states that Virginia Tech calls the cluster 'Big Mac'.

As previously reported, the Big Mac supercomputer cluster uses 1,100 2GHz Power Mac G5s, is capable of 17.6 trillion floating point operations per second, and can store up to 176 terabytes (17.6 million gigabytes) of data.

The project's chief architect, Srinidhi Varadarajan, had to write software to ensure that should one of the Macs crash, another would "seamlessly" take over its tasks.

Cooling problems

The report offers a close look at the technical problems faced by the project team, and explains that when the 1,100 computers are running, air temperature rises higher than boiling point. The heat is so intense that ordinary air-cooling systems would have caused 60mph winds. The facility opted to use specialized cooling systems based on water.

In related news, Apple is reportedly developing a solution for distributed and parallel computing.