Supercomputer from Apple

Servers from Apple to 14 may 2002 to cope with the tasks assigned to them, but never became a significant event in the industry. Transformation of Apple and NeXT in one company couldn’t lead to something like the Xserve…

In 2002, a situation Apple wasn’t hopeless, but to return to the top League was far away. It is easier to lose than to regain the lost. From the speeches on behalf of Apple disappeared mantra that it is a small company. Now it is again rising.

To regain the lost could only approach to the market: new interesting products, causing admiration and wish to purchase them no matter what.

The direction of consumer electronics, at least for now, could not become the main target. iPod, even though it has caused unrest in the minds among Apple fans, as the Newton MessagePad, sold slightly better than the last.

Repeat with FireWire the same as in 1998 managed to do with USB, clearly not worked.

There were other directions. Home computers (iMac), professional and Mac, and servers based on them – that was more or less well, but required a bright and unexpected blow, the available model for this wouldn’t work.

However, the project of the computer racks were signed and launched in 2000, even earlier than the iPod. And it was not a project the usual Apple servers. It was a very ambitious project, the first step in another direction of the main attack.

Traditional servers from Apple

They did not Shine, but they had their own niche, cozy and protected from alien invasion. In 1985, thanks to the revolution in publishing, Apple has introduced another kind of customers: small publishing houses, advertising agencies, design studios and similar companies, which, for their core business, used Mac I.

Besides the main activity, even with a population of 10-15 people, can not escape from non-core tasks. And if Mac and copes with the role of the office computer, they even called sometimes “the best computers for offices”, what was the truth, for the organization and administration of local area networks, file servers, and over time, more and web servers, the usual Mac and came up much worse.

The market was crammed with exciting server solutions based on Windows or Unix, but for a small clean Mac-native company to acquire such solutions is comparable to purchasing a small airplane. To manage these solutions needed a highly trained staff and expensive technical support. In addition, that these days a Mac and easily get along with Windows and Unix machines, and then it had problems.

In similar position there were schools, nonprofit organizations, dealers Apple, and many others. Therefore, for reasons of humanity, but also to generate additional revenue, and created a special server Mac I. In fact it was a little more difficult, and in the late 90s Apple released servers with Unix as the operating system that destroyed some of the above advantages – but the company was seriously ill, and many of its decisions were made as if in delirium.

The transition Apple Mac OS X, in fact, solved these problems. In addition to the regular version of each of the big cats, came out and server version of the system, for example, Mac OS 10.1 “Puma” was sold in parallel with Mac OS 10.1 Server. Essentially, the server system did not differ from normal (so they came out at the same time), just in the server option some of the settings were different, and together they supplied a huge amount of special software.

Server Mac OS X required to install more disk space, but it can be installed on any Mac that has a compatible main system. Produced Mac and PostScript “Server” in the model name, for those who have been more serious server needs.

It was a continuation of the old tradition. Server option is available with every release of macOS, and in our days.

Xserve

May 14, 2002, the company-manufacturer of iPod, suddenly announced his own rack server. These computers are not used by themselves, they are built into special racks. In 2004 somewhere in the web I came across a fascinating story of one craftsman, who used Xserve as a regular desktop Mac, the article was an illustration – he had to make some effort while he had experience with these cars. The Amateur Xserve would have died in a week.

However, this server (?) did not fit the role of a traditional server from Apple. It was a module for the standard racks, 1U form factor, single or dual G4 with a clock frequency of 1 GHz, with more than decent for its time, technical characteristics

Can be anything to think about, Motorola and IBM, but their processors was one of the great achievements of our civilization, they are largely outnumbered the processors main competitor – and inside the rack module, with a Unix-like operating system within them was very attractive.

There was another story that I remember very vaguely (possible inaccuracies), I can’t even say with certainty when it happened. But, like, it was after this the history of Apple, during the first update of the lineup Xserve, for models with one and two processors on the Board for 2999 and $ 3999, added a special model for clusters without optical drive and with only one seat for the disk, and with two processors for the price of a single-processor model.

What happened was this:

In one of the universities in the USA, for a study that required considerable computing power, Professor and project leader (Indian name), realizing that the funds for the purchase of supercomputer home institution to allocate to it can not, decided to build a supercomputer myself. The University, of course, not a garage in Los Gatos, and with qualified personnel universities have better, but the supercomputer are on the order of orders of magnitude greater than the complexity of the Apple I.

The supercomputer was decided to make a cluster (a bunch of several hundred ordinary powerful workstations), but to find in catalogs a set of workstations required power components and for their connection into a single whole, did not manage to squeeze within the allowable budget.

And then he stumbled upon a PowerMac is most likely G4. Prior to that, he never dealt with heresy from Apple, but is reported appropriate data, and at the price they almost fit in the budget.

Buying for your money PowerMac, and found out that it’s not cheating, he contacted Apple, hoping to get discounts and technical assistance.

He got even more than requested. In creating the cluster was attended by Apple engineers, and they are not alone: ultrafast switches, and special connections for this project, Apple has acquired through its channels, about a third of their prices.

When the cluster is launched and measured its performance, it is higher than estimated, moreover, the cluster entered the top five most powerful supercomputers in the world.

Naturally, the marketing service Apple used this event to the maximum, and the cluster at the expense of Apple, retool just announced cluster Xserve, the Apple engineers selected the best for this post. Occupied by the cluster area has decreased four times, the number of elements increased by about half, and performance — several times.

A powerful advertising campaign Apple has led to unexpected consequences: an updated and much more powerful cluster barely in the top hundred. Campaign woke up the competitors, which quickly pushed back the Apple “in her place”.

The history of the Xserve lasted about ten years, then the project was closed.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this topic…

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