Apple’s focus on creating products that should be of use to the high-performance computing markets has spawned a new, little-known product combo – the Apple Workgroup Cluster for Bioinformatics.

This is a pre-configured bioinformatics cluster built around the new Xserve G5. The cluster includes between four and 16 servers, a rack to hold the them, cabling, and systems and application software. The bundled system includes The BioTeam’s iNquiry software with 200 informatics applications including BLAST and HMMER. It costs from $27,999.

Doug Brooks, product manager for server hardware at Apple said that many of the informatics applications bundled with the cluster are optimized for Mac OS X environment and for Apple’s G5 Velocity Engine. The Velocity Engine allows for the parallel execution of up to 16 operations in a single clock-cycle. Applications that have been fine-tuned to take advantage of the Velocity Engine’s hardware run faster.

Apple introduced Xserve RAID at Macworld Expo. Brooks points out that along with a higher 3.5TB maximum capacity, the product ships with new software that supports more sophisticated data-management features. Apple has had the product certified by several leading switch and operating systems vendors, including Microsoft and Red Hat.

The importance of the OS vendor certifications is that “this allows you to look to Apple storage outside the Mac OS X systems realm,” says Brooks. Specifically, the systems are now certified to be used in Windows and Linux environments (in addition to the Mac OS X environment), he said.