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Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Hi all,
apologies for the n00b question: invest in the MacPro now, or wait for an ARM version to come out?
I'm an empirical researcher working with large datasets, statistics and machine learning (Python, Matlab, C++).
I was about to order a maxed out Mac Pro for my work (research funding), and hoped to be comfortable for the next 5-7 years.
But ARM might topple this. What are the implications for software (like the statistical programs), and could I upgrade a mother board later on using the current components (RAM, SSD)?
thanks for your help.
 

JPack

macrumors G3
Mar 27, 2017
9,376
16,342
If it's from award funding, buy one now. It may not make sense to wait one year for an ARM Mac Pro to do work. If it's a personal purchase, I would wait.

Commercial software is likely to lag behind in the transition, so I would expect ARM versions to be out for Matlab in 2-3 years. Given the transition, no Mac product you buy today will be comfortable (in terms of latest software support) for 5-7 years.
 

Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Thanks! This advice is in line with my priors. The software issue is indeed important: it might take a while before a whole ecosystem of softwares is stable again...
 

now i see it

macrumors G3
Jan 2, 2002
9,519
19,012
The Mac Pro will likely be the last Mac to get updated to ARM CPUs and the projected timeline for all macs to be running on Apple silicon is "about two years".
Apple is keenly aware that their Mac Pro customers are spending BIG bucks on the machine. I wouldn't worry about the current Intel Mac Pros being out of the loop for at least another 6-8 years, and even then, they'll still work.

If the software you're planning on using with it updates annually and you're keen on only using the most up to date software, then yeah, you'll hit the ARM wall a little sooner
 

Romanesco

macrumors regular
Jul 8, 2015
119
65
New York City
An updated Mac Pro on Apple silicon will not be available for quite some time. The earliest sign that one is coming would be when the iMac Pro on Apple silicon will outperform the Mac Pro (2019).
 

Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
An updated Mac Pro on Apple silicon will not be available for quite some time. The earliest sign that one is coming would be when the iMac Pro on Apple silicon will outperform the Mac Pro (2019).

But the Mac Pro will still top out at much larger configurations (RAM and processor)...
 

Macbookprodude

Suspended
Jan 1, 2018
3,306
890
The Mac Pro will likely be the last Mac to get updated to ARM CPUs and the projected timeline for all macs to be running on Apple silicon is "about two years".
Apple is keenly aware that their Mac Pro customers are spending BIG bucks on the machine. I wouldn't worry about the current Intel Mac Pros being out of the loop for at least another 6-8 years, and even then, they'll still work.

If the software you're planning on using with it updates annually and you're keen on only using the most up to date software, then yeah, you'll hit the ARM wall a little sooner

That means all those who spend 50k or more on intel 2019 mac pro - you are stuck with a paper weight.
 

johngwheeler

macrumors 6502a
Dec 30, 2010
639
211
I come from a land down-under...
But the Mac Pro will still top out at much larger configurations (RAM and processor)...

Not necessarily, assuming you are referring to the capacity of the current Intel MacPro.

A future ARM-based MacPro doesn't need to set a precedent for powerful ARM CPUs.

Here are the high-level specs for the Ampere 80-core ARM CPU released this March:

Ampere Altra Features
• Up to 80 single-threaded cores in a 1P and 160 cores in a 2P platform
• 7nm process technology
• 8 channels of DDR4-3200 at 2 DPC, supporting up to 4 TB memory per socket
• 128 PCIe Gen4 lanes in 1P and 192 PCIe Gen4 lanes in 2P platforms
• CCIX for coherent accelerator attach
• Two 128 bit SIMD units
• AI inference acceleration using int8 and fp16 instructions
• Server class RAS
• Arm v8.2+, SBSA Level 4

Current Mac Pro tops out at 28-cores and 1.5TB RAM. Just adorable!


[automerge]1593577996[/automerge]
That means all those who spend 50k or more on intel 2019 mac pro - you are stuck with a paper weight.

AFAIK, the computer will still continue to function perfectly even without OS updates...so definitely not a paperweight.

There are plenty of 20 year-old-plus computers running just fine all over the world. Sure, there isn't any significant software development for them going on, but they still work and do their job.
 
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Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Here are the high-level specs for the Ampere 80-core ARM CPU released this March:
Thank you - Isn't the Ampere is explicitly not developed for desktop or even HPC, but targeted at multi-user concurrent actions instead of large single-user actions?
 

Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Why do you need a Mac Pro for the above when you could easily build a better PC (same budget) and use linux for research ? (check out threadripper + you have PCI gen4 there for high IO)
To be fair, I currently have a Linux server with 36 core Xeon and 1TB of RAM at my disposal at the dept, accessed remotely through SHH and X2Go. But I depend on IT technicians to solve any problems, and these sometimes take weeks to resolve. With the Apple alternative, I can take matters in my own hands.
 

ZeroTemplates

macrumors newbie
Jul 1, 2020
12
3
To be fair, I currently have a Linux server with 36 core Xeon and 1TB of RAM at my disposal at the dept, accessed remotely through SHH and X2Go. But I depend on IT technicians to solve any problems, and these sometimes take weeks to resolve. With the Apple alternative, I can take matters in my own hands.

Yeah the part with weeks is really bad ... no wonder nuclear fusion is always 30 years in the future ?. Jokes aside, you know better what suits you, but like the others said, ARM is not quite there yet for such huge amounts of RAM + cores. Not sure on IO support (latest PCIe) also one has to take in consideration that the software won't be up for it for a couple of years. If I'm not mistaken even Apple said that they will support Intel a tad more.
In my opinion, ARM would be really good for laptops, maybe in the far future it will catch up with x86 for research.

A big point: if you need a graphics card for your work then you should stick with the x86 for now (Nvidia doesn't quite have support on Apple, keep this one in mind)
 

Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Yeah the part with weeks is really bad ... no wonder nuclear fusion is always 30 years in the future ?. Jokes aside, you know better what suits you, but like the others said, ARM is not quite there yet for such huge amounts of RAM + cores. Not sure on IO support (latest PCIe) also one has to take in consideration that the software won't be up for it for a couple of years. If I'm not mistaken even Apple said that they will support Intel a tad more.
In my opinion, ARM would be really good for laptops, maybe in the far future it will catch up with x86 for research.

A big point: if you need a graphics card for your work then you should stick with the x86 for now (Nvidia doesn't quite have support on Apple, keep this one in mind)
Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, it's more a HR problem at the university: IT dept are allocated to the faculties, and they have to follow up with all matters at that level. But that mostly involves installing Microsoft Office ?. They hate Mac, and perhaps have had 1 course in Linux. On the other hand, there is a fantastic team at our Calculation Center, who also host our HPC etc. But they are just overwhelmed with work, and then my 1 small rack in their complex is not really first order priority.

But it's a tricky jump. In a previous life, I have been doing music recording and soundtracks. That was on custom PC configurations. But all software was massively dependent on each other. Break one link and most of it breaks. So I have supported a stable (and off-the-internet!) configuration for several years dissynchronized with the advancements of both the OS and the software updates.

So, best is to wait 5-ish years for ARM, Apple, and all softwares to converge to a stable setting. In the mean time, I could perhaps settle for a lesser 1.5TB MacPro :)
 

ZeroTemplates

macrumors newbie
Jul 1, 2020
12
3
Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, it's more a HR problem at the university: IT dept are allocated to the faculties, and they have to follow up with all matters at that level. But that mostly involves installing Microsoft Office ?. They hate Mac, and perhaps have had 1 course in Linux. On the other hand, there is a fantastic team at our Calculation Center, who also host our HPC etc. But they are just overwhelmed with work, and then my 1 small rack in their complex is not really first order priority.

But it's a tricky jump. In a previous life, I have been doing music recording and soundtracks. That was on custom PC configurations. But all software was massively dependent on each other. Break one link and most of it breaks. So I have supported a stable (and off-the-internet!) configuration for several years dissynchronized with the advancements of both the OS and the software updates.

So, best is to wait 5-ish years for ARM, Apple, and all softwares to converge to a stable setting. In the mean time, I could perhaps settle for a lesser 1.5TB MacPro :)

Yup, for so much ram one has to stick with Intel, AMD doesn't support this amount only on the server line, have fun and help us all with your research ;)
 

Waragainstsleep

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2003
584
200
UK
Yeah the part with weeks is really bad ... no wonder nuclear fusion is always 30 years in the future ?. Jokes aside, you know better what suits you, but like the others said, ARM is not quite there yet for such huge amounts of RAM + cores. Not sure on IO support (latest PCIe) also one has to take in consideration that the software won't be up for it for a couple of years. If I'm not mistaken even Apple said that they will support Intel a tad more.
In my opinion, ARM would be really good for laptops, maybe in the far future it will catch up with x86 for research.

A big point: if you need a graphics card for your work then you should stick with the x86 for now (Nvidia doesn't quite have support on Apple, keep this one in mind)


As someone actually mentioned above, there is an 80-core ARM processor which supports a preposterous amount of RAM. I don't know much about Ampere but I'm willing to bet they can't match the resources of the world's only 1.5 Trillion dollar company. Apple has caught the worlds oldest CPU maker inside ten years and we have no idea how far they've really come.

I don't quite understand your choice of language regarding Nvidia. They have been in open conflict with Apple for some time now. The only reason I can think of is the number of their chips that melted down and cost Apple customers hassle and money. Nvidia keeps saying they have drivers but Apple won't let them release them but this makes no sense to me. Anyone can release a driver if they want to as far as I know. Might be more complicated to install than usual but Nvidia has Mac users that would happily deal with that. Unless they need some unprecedented access to the Mac OS kernel or something?
 

ZeroTemplates

macrumors newbie
Jul 1, 2020
12
3
As someone actually mentioned above, there is an 80-core ARM processor which supports a preposterous amount of RAM. I don't know much about Ampere but I'm willing to bet they can't match the resources of the world's only 1.5 Trillion dollar company. Apple has caught the worlds oldest CPU maker inside ten years and we have no idea how far they've really come.

I don't quite understand your choice of language regarding Nvidia. They have been in open conflict with Apple for some time now. The only reason I can think of is the number of their chips that melted down and cost Apple customers hassle and money. Nvidia keeps saying they have drivers but Apple won't let them release them but this makes no sense to me. Anyone can release a driver if they want to as far as I know. Might be more complicated to install than usual but Nvidia has Mac users that would happily deal with that. Unless they need some unprecedented access to the Mac OS kernel or something?

Apple won't implement, IMHO the 80 core arm anytime soon, look at what they have in house (the focus will be on laptops where the wattage and power consumption is key).
You could make the argument that all of this can be done on a cluster of raspeberypie's, and most likely it could from hardware perspective (given that the budgeting isn't a concern), but there is no OS that will use the actual existing software (at least that I know) and run it on a cluster or be compatible with 80 Core ARM so that one could encode the existing C++ programs. (don't forget ARM doesn't implement all the instructions there are on x86 !). In addition running on x86 even if the OS will drop support for intel, you could move to Linux (using boot camp, on an older MacOs version)

On the Nvidia topic, yes you can make it work, but one would like to finish his work not do something extra all the time (when a new release of the OS comes).

Anything is possible, as it's software, I mean you could even write an OS that does all the above we mentioned, but for sure time will be a problem as one would like to achieve it today not in 2 years(as apple stated for the transition)
 

leman

macrumors P6
Oct 14, 2008
16,532
14,050
Thank you - Isn't the Ampere is explicitly not developed for desktop or even HPC, but targeted at multi-user concurrent actions instead of large single-user actions?

Yes, Ampere is a server CPU. I doubt it will be any good as a scientific workstation.

We will see an Apple Silicon Mac Pro alternative, but this will be towards the end of the transition. Their current hardware is not a good match for the needs of a modular workstation, so Apple will have to solve a bunch of technical issues before they can deliver it.

To your original question: buy the MP now. It will be more than useable for the duration of your project.
 

UltimateSyn

macrumors 601
Mar 3, 2008
4,162
6,820
Massachusetts
My suspicion, based on Apple's past actions + a little bit of my own logic and guesswork, is that the Mac Pro will be the last machine to be updated to ARM processors. They're going to have made sure their Mac silicon is tried and true on the more consumer-oriented machines before selling $50k ARM Macs to the 'Pros.' This means that you could be waiting until the Fall of 2022 for an ARM Mac Pro.

If you're only looking for 5-7 years of 'comfort' then the Intel Mac Pro will likely suit you well.
 
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UBS28

macrumors 68030
Oct 2, 2012
2,893
2,322
Not necessarily, assuming you are referring to the capacity of the current Intel MacPro.

A future ARM-based MacPro doesn't need to set a precedent for powerful ARM CPUs.

Here are the high-level specs for the Ampere 80-core ARM CPU released this March:

Ampere Altra Features
• Up to 80 single-threaded cores in a 1P and 160 cores in a 2P platform
• 7nm process technology
• 8 channels of DDR4-3200 at 2 DPC, supporting up to 4 TB memory per socket
• 128 PCIe Gen4 lanes in 1P and 192 PCIe Gen4 lanes in 2P platforms
• CCIX for coherent accelerator attach
• Two 128 bit SIMD units
• AI inference acceleration using int8 and fp16 instructions
• Server class RAS
• Arm v8.2+, SBSA Level 4

Current Mac Pro tops out at 28-cores and 1.5TB RAM. Just adorable!


[automerge]1593577996[/automerge]


AFAIK, the computer will still continue to function perfectly even without OS updates...so definitely not a paperweight.

There are plenty of 20 year-old-plus computers running just fine all over the world. Sure, there isn't any significant software development for them going on, but they still work and do their job.

Yeah, and with so many cores it only barely beats an AMD Epyc by a couple of percentage points. Not impressed, especially with x86 also having a better software ecosystem.
 

Waragainstsleep

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2003
584
200
UK
Apple won't implement, IMHO the 80 core arm anytime soon, look at what they have in house (the focus will be on laptops where the wattage and power consumption is key).
You could make the argument that all of this can be done on a cluster of raspeberypie's, and most likely it could from hardware perspective (given that the budgeting isn't a concern), but there is no OS that will use the actual existing software (at least that I know) and run it on a cluster or be compatible with 80 Core ARM so that one could encode the existing C++ programs. (don't forget ARM doesn't implement all the instructions there are on x86 !). In addition running on x86 even if the OS will drop support for intel, you could move to Linux (using boot camp, on an older MacOs version)

On the Nvidia topic, yes you can make it work, but one would like to finish his work not do something extra all the time (when a new release of the OS comes).

Anything is possible, as it's software, I mean you could even write an OS that does all the above we mentioned, but for sure time will be a problem as one would like to achieve it today not in 2 years(as apple stated for the transition)

Apple won't implement that 80 core because it isn't theirs. Its mentioned only to show that ARM chips with huge core counts can be done.

Nvidia says the drivers are ready but Apple won't let them release them. Plenty of folks would happily jump through a few scripts and and some terminal fiddling to get their expensive Nvidia cards running on their Macs. Something is fishy about it to me.

Yeah, and with so many cores it only barely beats an AMD Epyc by a couple of percentage points. Not impressed, especially with x86 also having a better software ecosystem.

If you need cores and x86 software you probably aren't buying a Mac anyway.
 

Boil

macrumors 68000
Oct 23, 2018
1,984
1,549
my 1 small rack in their complex is not really first order priority.

So, best is to wait 5-ish years for ARM, Apple, and all softwares to converge to a stable setting. In the mean time, I could perhaps settle for a lesser 1.5TB MacPro :)

Like others have said, if this is not out of your pocket, then go right ahead & get a shiny new Mac Pro...!

But when you mention "my 1 small rack", then definitely get the rackmount version of the Mac Pro! Keep it polished up, so the haters can see it shine!!!

I am excited for Apple Silicon (they gotta work on that branding), and am wishing for a new Cube! Make it an "entry-level" DCC workstation; with an arm64-based HPC APU, dedicated audio / video I/O & DSPs, dual (MXM-based?) dGPUs option, etc.!

Save the Big Chungus chassis for the real power users, but give the one man / indie shops some sweet Cube wrokstations...
 

johngwheeler

macrumors 6502a
Dec 30, 2010
639
211
I come from a land down-under...
Yeah, and with so many cores it only barely beats an AMD Epyc by a couple of percentage points. Not impressed, especially with x86 also having a better software ecosystem.

Well, the AMD chip has 80 single-thread cores against the AMD Epyc's 64C/128T, so it looks quite promising for ARM. The availability of optimized software is the important thing though, as you suggest.

Bit like VHS & Betamax: it doesn't matter which is better; it matters what you can do with it.
[automerge]1593678031[/automerge]
Thank you - Isn't the Ampere is explicitly not developed for desktop or even HPC, but targeted at multi-user concurrent actions instead of large single-user actions?

Yes, it's a server CPU with a high TPD (210W I think), and not designed for desktops. It does show that the ARM can be made to perform at Intel Xeon levels. I expect Apple will be working hard on making this works for desktop / workstation loads. Single core performance is definitely weaker than Intel / AMD at the moment, but is getting better.
[automerge]1593678158[/automerge]
Yeah the part with weeks is really bad ... no wonder nuclear fusion is always 30 years in the future ?. Jokes aside, you know better what suits you, but like the others said, ARM is not quite there yet for such huge amounts of RAM + cores. Not sure on IO support (latest PCIe) also one has to take in consideration that the software won't be up for it for a couple of years. If I'm not mistaken even Apple said that they will support Intel a tad more.
In my opinion, ARM would be really good for laptops, maybe in the far future it will catch up with x86 for research.

A big point: if you need a graphics card for your work then you should stick with the x86 for now (Nvidia doesn't quite have support on Apple, keep this one in mind)

ARM supports PCIe 3 & 4, so if GPU manufacturers write the drivers, the CPU can use them.
[automerge]1593678390[/automerge]
Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, it's more a HR problem at the university: IT dept are allocated to the faculties, and they have to follow up with all matters at that level. But that mostly involves installing Microsoft Office ?. They hate Mac, and perhaps have had 1 course in Linux. On the other hand, there is a fantastic team at our Calculation Center, who also host our HPC etc. But they are just overwhelmed with work, and then my 1 small rack in their complex is not really first order priority.

But it's a tricky jump. In a previous life, I have been doing music recording and soundtracks. That was on custom PC configurations. But all software was massively dependent on each other. Break one link and most of it breaks. So I have supported a stable (and off-the-internet!) configuration for several years dissynchronized with the advancements of both the OS and the software updates.

So, best is to wait 5-ish years for ARM, Apple, and all softwares to converge to a stable setting. In the mean time, I could perhaps settle for a lesser 1.5TB MacPro :)

The "HR problem" of IT dept workflows is a big reason for people moving to cloud platforms. You can basically take control of the server yourself at the OS level, and let someone else manage the hardware. You obviously can't change the underlying hardware configuration, but there are many options in the "menu" of server types & sizes, including ones with GPUs, FPGAs etc.
 
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Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
Thanks all, I think I have converged to a workable solution. My current thoughts are the MacPro rack version, 28 cores with 1.5TB Ram, 8 TB SSD. I'll get the Ram from OWC and install it myself (around 50% cheaper). And if needed I can always add the OWC Accelsior SSD. For graphical cards: no idea yet for machine learning. Haven't used things like CUDA yet so not sure how much this will be a bottleneck going forward...
 
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Boil

macrumors 68000
Oct 23, 2018
1,984
1,549
Thanks all, I think I have converged to a workable solution. My current thoughts are the MacPro rack version, 28 cores with 1.5TB Ram, 8 TB SSD. I'll get the Ram from OWC and install it myself (around 50% cheaper). And if needed I can always add the OWC Accelsior SSD. For graphical cards: no idea yet for machine learning. Haven't used things like CUDA yet so not sure how much this will be a bottleneck going forward...

You will not be running CUDA on macOS, AMD is your GPU of choice for the Mac Pro...
 
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Glenn_Magerman

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 30, 2020
9
1
You will not be running CUDA on macOS, AMD is your GPU of choice for the Mac Pro...

Exactly, that's why I'm not sure not having access to CUDA would impact the workflow. Are there equivalent solutions for AMD, or Python/C++ libraries that leverage GPU?
 
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