Supercomputers helped achieve breakthroughs in almost every field of science. But the conventional wisdom was that few outside the scientific community could possibly need one. That was before Photoshop filters made demands worthy of sophisticated NASA image processing. Before Internet security required CIA-strength cryptography. And before compressing digital video put a hole in your day.
These tasks, and many more like them, choke traditional processors. But they can be dramatically sped up with the kind of processing horsepower that supercomputers provide.
A new breed of supercomputer
So whats a supercomputer? What makes a supercomputer super is its ability to execute at least one billion floating-point operations per second, a staggering measure of speed known as a gigaflop. Also known as the first supercomputer on a chip, the PowerPC G4, architected by Apple, Motorola and IBM, was the first microprocessor to deliver a sustained performance of over one gigaflop and now has a theoretical peak performance of 5.3 gigaflops. In fact, our desktop systems with the dual 800MHz PowerPC G4 processor configuration hit speeds of 11.8 gigaflops.
Behind the PowerPC G4s phenomenal performance is its aptly named Velocity Engine. The Velocity Engine processes data in huge 128-bit chunks, instead of the smaller 32-bit or 64-bit chunks used in traditional processors (its the 128-bit vector processing technology used in scientific supercomputers except that weve added 162 new instructions to speed up computations). In addition, the PowerPC G4 can perform four (in some cases eight) 32-bit floating-point calculations in a single cycle two to four times faster than processors found in run-of-the-mill PCs.
The PowerPC G4 with Velocity Engine works with the PowerPC architecture to accelerate the data-intensive processing required by next-generation video, voice and graphics applications. Among the G4 key features is a vector permute function capable of rearranging data in the registers a priceless benefit when converting data from one format to another (often necessary with voice, video and graphics apps, which typically need to save data in a number of different formats). These vector processing advantages give the PowerPC G4 a significant edge when it comes to visualization. Making the PowerPC G4 perfect for everything from digital video, graphics and 3D games to astronomy, the biosciences and predictive modeling.
Benefits of preemptive multitasking
Preemptive multitasking essentially works like a controller that enables the PowerPC G4 to process several different tasks simultaneously. The controller gives priority to your primary applications, while the PowerPC G4 continues to crunch away at other tasks in the background. Mac OS X uses this controller to monitor the processor at all times. The controller prioritizes tasks, makes sure activities are at peak levels, and allocates resources on the fly to ensure that every task has the processing power it needs.
Processor priorities are set according to the importance of each task. If you suddenly decide to check your email or surf the web while youre in the middle of compressing an MP3 music file, Mac OS X preempts the audio compression task and re-allocates sufficient processor power to comply with your most recent request. Meanwhile, the processor will continue compressing your MP3 music file in the background.
Since applications can no longer tie up the processor exclusively, your system is far more responsive to your requests. No more waiting for a process to complete. Your system performs the actions you want it to perform when you want it to perform them.
PowerPC G4 for Engineering, Science, and Education
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Power of Mac OS X
This brings us to the phenomenal combination of the PowerPC G4 processor and Mac OS X. Mac OS X features preemptive multitasking that allocates processor cycles on an as-needed basis. Protected memory that keeps you up and running even if an errant piece of beta software decides to crash, and a symmetric multiprocessing capability that delivers unparalleled performance on dual processor Power Mac G4 computers. Fact is, with Mac OS X optimized to wring every last bit of performance out of the PowerPC G4 processor, youll notice improvements at every level.
Naturally, Apples latest implementation of OpenGL, the industry standard gaming technology, plays a major role as well. OpenGL performance has been ratcheted up to previously unheard of levels, zipping texture memory from applications to 3D graphics cards in nothing flat for maximum quality and frame rates.
To top it all, weve made it easy for software developers to optimize their applications to take advantage of the combined strengths of the PowerPC G4 processor, Mac OS X and OpenGL. Operations like image sharpening and blurring, sizing and resizing, color-mode conversions and filters are visibly faster and doubly so with the PowerPC G4 dual processor configuration running on Mac OS X. Youll notice the performance boost even more when youre working with huge, multi-layered image files. And when youre dealing with video, 3D graphics, movies, animation and special effects, nothing else even comes close.
Youll notice the difference the PowerPC G4-Mac OS X-OpenGL combination makes when you add, say, luminosity to an image in LightWave 3D. Or brush on a glowing texture in Alias|Wavefronts Maya. Or create multicolor gradients in Macromedia FreeHand. Or create a drop shadow or calligraphic edge in Adobe Illustrator. Suddenly, everything feels faster.
Applications optimized for multiprocessing include:
Final Cut Pro
NewTek LightWave 6
Maxon Computer Cinema 4D
Media 100 Inc.s Media 100 Suite
Sorensons Sorenson Video
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