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September 30, 2005

Apple Supercomputer Grows in Qatar

Nicole Hemsoth

The Middle East is the site of a new Apple-based supercomputing cluster operating at the Qatar Foundation's Education City site.

Created by Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ)'s Information Technology Services operation, the cluster has been dubbed “Supercomputing Applications in Qatar for Research” (SAQR). SAQR links 101 Apple G5 XServe computers with customized communications software.

Possessing more than 200 processors, SAQR was developed for faculty and industry researchers to run engineering applications, such as oil field mapping and to conduct research into petroleum and chemical engineering — interests that are vital to the long-term interests of Qatar.

Originally, Qatar Foundation set out to create a sister cluster to one on the campus of Texas A&M's chemical engineering department, but the idea was expanded to consist of an international cluster that would help the foundation work better with the U.S.-based university.

Choosing Apple let Qatar Foundation create a supercomputer that was much less expensive than more traditional alternatives while enjoying comparable performance with an attractive upgrade path, according to QF officials. TAMUQ's ITS operation built SAQR and have heavily promoted the fact it can be upgraded as needed by just adding computing nodes.

Look for TAMUQ to use the supercomputer to help turn out graduates who will eventually go to work for Qatar Petroleum, a major sponsor of the efforts. After all, SAQR will be focused on serving the specific needs of the country.

To assist in the kickoff efforts, Texas A&M has deployed systems administrator Leigh Hausman at TAMUQ for a year to contribute to the installation and management of SAQR.

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, chartered, nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar.