The Big Mac Backstory

By Deane Barker on October 29, 2003

Confessions of the World’s Largest Switcher: A lot has been written about Virginia Tech’s Mac-based supercomputer. This, however, is one of the more in-depth pieces, concentrating on Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan — the guy who built it — and why exactly he chose the now-infamous route he did.

“A prime constraint in designing the Supercomputer was cost. Academia has small budgets so the focus was on high-price performance. Competing installations include DOE (Department of Energy) installations, which can afford to pay top dollar. The Virginia Tech computer wanted the same performance but for bottom dollar. The cost was more than just the machines. The existing facilities would need to be upgraded with cooling systems and power distribution. And they would have to account for the cost of the cables, memory, and back-up power. Varadarajan’s team built one of the cheapest world-class Supercomputers. He laughed that ‘The fact that it’s running is a big deal in itself.’”

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