The University of Maine is engaged in building a 256-node Xserve G5-based supercomputer at the Target Technology Center in Orono.

The team is currently using a supercomputer cluster of 208 desktop computers, but will begin building a new 256-node Xserve G5 system, which the team describes as "a baby Mach 5". The $680,000 system is funded by the US Army under contract with the University.

Members of the research team include: Eric Wages, supercomputer engineer in UMaine's Department of Industrial Cooperation; Bruce Segee and Andy Sheaff of UMaine's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Glen Beane, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science; and Larry Thompson of Applied Thermal Sciences, an engineering research firm in Sanford.

This group has been: "Working to analyze the performance of complex software that simulates high-speed missile trajectories on a cluster of high performance desktop computers," the University said in a release.

The software concerned is described as so complex that "engineers have taken what amounts to a digital magnifying glass to see how various sections of the code perform," said Maine U.

The current supercomputer system will remain at Target. "We hope to keep the system running 24/7 and available for UMaine researchers and businesses," said Wages. Students and faculty members are already using the existing machine in their work.

In May, the Army announced plans to buy a system consisting of 1,566 Xserve G5s through Army contractor, Colsa. This system is expected to be finished this autumn, and will be second only to the $350 million Earth Simulator computer in Japan.

"The goal of our work is to learn how to build bigger, better, faster, and cheaper supercomputer technology for the Army," said Wages.

The University has an online gallery detailing progress in building the new supercomputer, as well as a webcam.