A supercomputer cluster made up of 1,566 Xserve G5s could aid the US military in designing intercept missiles and understanding scramjets.

The cluster, dubbed MACH5 (Multiple Advanced Computers for Hypersonics), consists of 1,566 64-bit, dual-processor Xserve G5s. It was created for the Hypersonic Missile Technology (HMT) team at COLSA and the US Army so they could conduct leading-edge analysis of hypersonic flight for a number of important military programs.

HMT team head Dr. John Medeiros told Apple: ”With the kind of computations we can do with the G5s, we can better understand and model hypersonic flight conditions for missiles and scramjet engines. NASA is interested in scramjet engines as a cheaper way to get into orbit. Also, in terms of high-speed travel, scramjets may provide a means to achieve very high-speed global transport.”

The team will also use the supercluster to improve the design of intercept missiles that defend against attack. Medeiros explained: ”With this kind of power, we can expect to design scramjet engines and missiles in a more economical way with significant reduction in wind tunnel testing and in the number of very expensive flight tests."

Super fast

According to Apple's report: "At its peak, the supercluster can exceed 25 teraflops – calculating more than 25 trillion floating-point operations per second. By comparison, the world’s fastest computer – NEC’s $350 million Earth Simulator – runs at a peak speed of 40 teraflops. A single person using a hand-held calculator – without pausing to eat or sleep – would need more than two million years to calculate what the Apple supercluster can calculate in a single second.

Medeiros said: "MACH5 gives us more than 60 times the computational power of our current production machine. What used to take two months can now be done in a day. Once you have that kind of computational power, you can look at things with higher resolution and see other problems you want to investigate. Plus you can tackle much larger problems."

The Xserve was selected for the cluster because it best met the requirements of the project. Mederios said: “The Xserve G5 is a perfect fit for us because it has a smaller footprint, uses less power, and it gives us the performance that we were looking for. We went through a bid process with specific requirements and the Apple Xserve G5 gave us the best value.”