The “Orchard” is an 800-core supercomputer cluster, the largest of its type at Monash and the largest Apple-based machine in the southern hemisphere.  Coming online in mid 2009, Orchard was funded by the Australian Research Council, the Faculties of Medicine, Computer Science and Software Engineering, and the Monash eResearch Centre. Orchard will be used by Monash researchers working in structural biology,  rational drug design and protein dynamics.


100 Xserves, each comprising:
Twin 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon “Harpertown” processors
1600MHz frontside bus and 12MB L2 cache
8GB memory (1GB per core)

10 Gigabit Myrinet PCI Express NIC throughout
12 TB storage: Promise VTrak E-Class 16x 750GB SATA RAID subsystem

Orchard network diagram (click to enlarge)


Orchard boxes arrive!

Orchard boxes arrive!

Update (29-apr-09): The Orchard is planted!

While most of the world was still recovering from the Easter break, we were in bright & early on the Wednesday after Easter to begin setting up the Orchard cluster.

The assembly team consisted of:

  • Mark Bate (Buckle Lab, Monash University).
  • Graham Prince & team (Designwyse).
  • Joe Cox (Apple).
  • Chris Feil (Apple).
  • Grischa Meyer (Buckle Lab, Monash University).
  • Ben Couldry (Information Technology Services, Monash University).
  • Richard Spindler (Monash e-Research Centre, Monash University).

It was a very long day, but we managed to get a lot done.

A brief summary:

  • Mounted 10x APC power distribution units in to 5x APC racks.
  • Installed 85x Myrinet 10G cards in to Xserves.
  • Mounted 100x Xserve brackets across 5x APC racks.
  • Inserted 97x Xserves into the bracket mounts (Mark has the remaining 3 Xserves in his office for setup & testing).
  • Mounted 8x HP Procurve switches (Mark has remaining 1 in his office for setup & testing).
  • Mounted 1x Promise VTrak RAID in to APC racks
  • Mounted 1x Myrinet 10G switch in to APC racks

The next stage is to get all the Myrinet & ethernet cabling connected up.

We’ve started cabling, expect another update (and more photos) soon.


Mark Bate unboxing the first Xserve


Installing the Myrinet 10G cards


Node 000, the first node


Node 098 & 099, the last nodes


Orchard Rack #3


The beast in it's cage


Orchard, planted.


Mark Bate, Graham Prince, Grischa Meyer

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