Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will build an Infiniband cluster using Apple's new 64-bit G5 dual-processor Power Macs, Virginia Tech said yesterday.

When complete, the cluster of 1,100 Macs is expected to rank among the most powerful in the world. The university has been working with Apple for several months to adapt the new Power Mac for its cluster, it said.

The cluster will reside within Virginia Tech's Computing Centre, and will be used by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at the university, Virginia Tech said.

Virginia Tech researchers will use the new supercomputing facilities to help expand their understanding of nanoscale electronics, chemistry, aerodynamics, molecular statics, computational acoustics, molecular modeling and other topics.

More details will be released next week about the cluster, a professor at the university said yesterday.

Mellanox Technologies supplied the I/O fabric, drivers, cards, and switches for the cluster, Virginia Tech said. Cisco provided the Gigabit Ethernet switches, and Liebert, a division of Emerson Electric, supplied the cooling system.

Mellanox Technologies chief technical officer Michael Kagan said: "As applications scale to 64-bit platforms, like the dual-G5, it is very clear that clustered scalability requires InfiniBand performance. The higher compute power that these platforms generate place more stressful communication traffic between the nodes, making it imperative to use an interconnect like InfiniBand that delivers 10Gb/sec bandwidth at ultra low latencies."

Clustering technology is a popular choice of educational institutions that want to deploy supercomputing power without spending a great deal of money on a large machine. Apple's new G5 is said to offer excellent floating-point performance, a key requirement of many scientific computing applications.

Apple has confirmed that the new Power Macs are currently shipping, and the company is ramping shipments of the dual-processor model up to production volumes over the next two weeks.