System X History

System X was assembled by Virginia Tech faculty members, staff, and students in the summer of 2003, comprising 1,100 Apple PowerMac G5 computers. The supercomputer's name (pronounced "System Ten") originated from the original goal of 10 teraflops on the high performance LINPACK benchmark. On November 16, 2003, it was ranked by the TOP500 list as the third-fastest supercomputer in the world and "the world's most powerful and cheapest homebuilt supercomputer." As late as November 2006, it was ranked #47 in the TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. At that time, it was still the most powerful system categorized by TOP500 as "self made" at any university.

System X was constructed in a few months with a relatively low investment of $5.2 million, using souped up off-the-shelf G5 computers with dual-2.0 GHz processors. (By comparison, the Earth Simulator, the fastest supercomputer at that time, cost approximately $400 million to build.)

In early 2004, Virginia Tech upgraded its computer to Apple's newly-released Xserve G5 servers; the upgraded version was #7 in the 2004 TOP500 list, and cost one-fifth as much as the second least-expensive system in the top 10.

In October of 2004, Virginia Tech partially rebuilt System X at a cost of about $600,000. These improvements brought the computer's speed up to 12.25 Teraflops, which placed System X #14 on the 2005 TOP500 list.

In 2005, the communication fiber and switches were upgraded and System X was retired from competition to become a full-time research production resource.

Photo Galleries from the Construction of System X: