Can you make a supercomputer out of two iMacs?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by hallaisen, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. hallaisen macrumors regular

    May 28, 2006
    Question is obvious. Can you somehow hook two iMacs up together and utilize all the hardware but use it like its a single computer with dual screens?
  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    You are fundamentally misunderstanding how supercomputers work/what they are used for! They are amazingly fast at processing workloads that can be split into discrete work units, distributed to all the processing units, processed and then recombined. This is basically the complete opposite of almost all desktop tasks. So can you combine them and run standard desktop software quickly by using the resources of both? No. Can you use two (or more) Macs with a small number of specialist applications to achieve some speedup? Yes. One of the obvious ones is XCodes distributed builds.
  3. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    If it is possible, I'll bet it's ridiculously impractical. I'd forget about it.

    Anybody else know better?
  4. 300D macrumors 65816


    May 2, 2009
    Splitting work across multiple computers requires special software. Its basically running two separate programs and combining the results.

    Connecting computers and making them work as one is not possible. Even connections like Thunderbolt don't have enough bandwidth for that.
  5. vincenz macrumors 601


    Oct 20, 2008
    Strangest question all day. I'm sure that with enough chopping and soldering and with the right software, it's possible. But if you're looking for a cable to hook up and a software to download and run, I don't think so.
  6. Alexjungle macrumors member

    Jun 7, 2007
    It's possible. I have 2 G3's hooked up together crunching formulas all day long.
  7. RubbishBBspeed macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2009
    I like your thinking. I'd thought the same but more along the lines of using primary and secondary systems linked together by thunderbolt; have everything your not actually working on sitting or running in the background like burning a dvd or rendering final cut on the secondary system and the programme you are working on on the primary.

    Almost like having one imac with two screens except that the second screen also has it's own processor, and you actively either drag the programs between screens.

    I could see the concept working but it would rely on the program using the processor of the screen to which it is currently sitting on and is there really any point to that, may as well just use two imacs' in the first place.

    I've put this link up before which is ran by CERN and while its not related to this topic it is a good place to get more concept ideas.
  8. MTI macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2009
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Compared to a Cray 1 or Cray 2 supercomputer from the 60's . . . we all have "supercomputers."

    The original Crays did 1 - 2 gigaflops, while the current iMacs likely do a teraflop!. :D
  9. mrzeigler macrumors regular

    Oct 15, 2005
  10. rcp27 macrumors regular

    May 12, 2010
    All the current Mac lineup already are supercomputers. A supercomputer is a computer that has multiple processors working in parallel to speed computational jobs up by dividing them across multiple processors rather than a single one. When I run handbrake on my iMac, it divides the job across all 4 cores in parallel, ie it works as a supercomputer.

    An extension of the supercomputer is the cluster, in which a number of physically separate computers are connected together to work in parallel. The distinction here is that in a regular supercomputer, all processors are on the same shared bus as all the memory, so that all processors can access all the memory at the speed and latency of the bus. In a cluster, each node has its own independent memory, and the connections between nodes is very much slower than the bus speed. To take advantage of a cluster, not only does the processing load need to be divided into a number of parallel streams, the memory storage needs to be divided too, so that the data passed between nodes is kept to a minimum. This is only really used where seriously large computational power is needed, for example in university research and heavy duty industrial R&D.

    While you could build a cluster out of macs with ethernet interconnects, this is a very cost-ineffective way of doing it as the hardware comes with plenty of expensive kit (like screens) that is of no use to this kind of number crunching. A cluster of Mac Pros might be worthwhile (or conceivably minis), but there are far better solutions to the problem out there (with hardware chosen and assembled with this purpose specifically in mind). If you want really big clusters, then you are looking at specialist rack mount kit (think Xserves) and a dedicated staff to maintain the thing.
  11. Stan Mikulenka macrumors 6502

    Nov 20, 2009
    Calgary, Canada

    Attached Files:

  12. 24Frames macrumors regular

    Mar 23, 2012
    Yes. BUT I wouldn't describe this arrangement as a Supercomputer.

    Most 3D applications are capable of distributing processing across multiple computers for rendering.

    Thunderbolt is irrelevant for these applications, ethernet is already proven and more robust.

    Google XGrid for some other possibilities using OS X Lion Server.

    Also, you could buy a Mac Pro with 8-Cores or 12-Cores (maybe 16-Cores soon) and 2 1080p 21.5 or 24 inch LED screens for less than two iMacs, or you could add a Mac Mini Server to gan iMac to get the extra cores...
  13. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    "Can you make a supercomputer out of two iMacs? "

    Yes. Yes you can...

    But don't go gettin' delusions of grandeur, these setups won't be pulling any higher framerates for you in Call of Duty ;)
  14. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Even tough this thread is over 1 year old, if anyone is still interested... OS X comes preinstalled with a task batching system called XGrid, which allows you to split a task between multiple macs on a network. We use this thing in our university department, it's lots of fun :)
  15. Puevlo macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2011
    You don't need two iMacs. A single iMac is super enough already.
  16. geneking7320 macrumors newbie


    Feb 2, 2012
    Chicago, IL

Share This Page