Cray Mac Pro


Did you read that as the “grey” Mac Pro? Or “gray” Mac Pro for my fine American readers, some of whom may be living in the state where said device is proudly designed? If not, I encourage you to re-read the title.

Go ahead, I can wait.

Okay, I can’t. Let’s move on.

So here’s the thing

I don’t remember where or when, but at some point during my earlier childhood I went to a museum. I’d made it a habit of getting my parents to take me to museums, so much so that I’d often be told they didn’t have time to, or that I should be doing homework. I can just imagine my poor hapless parents pouring over a parenting advice book that explains how to encourage your children to do educational things, and wondering why it didn’t include a section on getting your child to do less educational things.

But I digress. In one the rooms of this museum (as they were called during the 1990s) there was a hulking huge blue column with seats wrapped around it. Turns out it wasn’t a stage prop from a science fiction film, it was in fact… a column with seats wrapped around it.

NEXT TO IT however, was a Cray supercomputer that looked almost exactly the same. I remember my young self staring up at this monstrously huge box, and feeling like I was staring at a giant sleeping robot. I didn’t understand the mathematical or technical complexity of such a device, but I could somehow feel a sense for how powerful this beast was. It was intimidating.

So here’s the newer thing

Fast foward to the annoucement of the 2013 Mac Pro at WWDC, known in 2013 as WWDC. This tiny cylinder, with its central cooling column and components wrapped around it… it doesn’t look like a rubbish bin at all to me. Well, maybe just a little. No, to me it looks like a futuristic version of what as a child I already thought looked futuristic.

In function and form, the Mac Pro looks and thermally works similar to a Cray supercomputer. It has hot components, it has a cooling fan at the top, and it draws the hot air across the components and out the top. The device is a cylider not for the flat boards inside, but for the shape of the cooling fan at the top.

As I discussed just prir to this iteration, I loved that I could take a giant ton of drives and tasks, throw it at my Mac Pro, and have storage and completed work thrown back at me. It was a hulking huge beast, and it stored and did all I needed it to.

The new Mac Pro… does one of these things. It only takes one Xeon, but its potentially a 12 core Xeon. It’s PCI-Express SSD would bring even better performance. It would be quieter and faster. After releasing huge sports cars, this would be equivilent to a Tesla; smaller with greater acceleration and deadly quiet. The pro-level graphics cards would only add to this grunt, so much so that there are two of them. I could have phrased that more better. That sentence also too.

Where it falls down for my use case is its lack of drive bays. I’m not sure whether I could say a “large” percentage of Mac Pro users, but certainly there were many of us utilising Mac Pros as smart NAS devices that could also be called upon to do work. With six thunderbolt ports, Apple seems to be encouraging us to attach a bucketload of external storage devices; precicely the cable spaghetti mess I’d been able to avoid by putting those external drives inside my current Mac Pro.

Apple are really, really good at skating to where the puck is going, not where it is. From a business perspective I can only speculate they did the research and decided this was what the market wanted, or would pay for. I for one am dissapointed at the lack of expansion, but I suppose we’ll wait and see what expansion options people come up with.

Written in 8 minutes. That’s prosperity, right there.

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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