Apple on Intel: Still a BLAST?

One question has been rolling around in the scientific community since Apple's surprise announcement that they will switch to the Intel processor in 2006. How fast will BLAST be on Intel on Mac's latest operating system, OSX? In 2002 Apple's Advanced Computing Group announced the availability of Apple/Genentech BLAST - AG BLAST (press release here) - which promised speed increases of "Up To Five Times Faster Than 2-GHz Pentium 4-based Systems."

By | July 22, 2005

One question has been rolling around in the scientific community since Apple's surprise announcement that they will switch to the Intel processor in 2006. How fast will BLAST be on Intel on Mac's latest operating system, OSX? In 2002 Apple's Advanced Computing Group announced the availability of Apple/Genentech BLAST - AG BLAST (press release here) - which promised speed increases of "Up To Five Times Faster Than 2-GHz Pentium 4-based Systems." This was gained by Apple's secret computational weapon -- the AltiVec component of the G4 and G5 chips. But of course the move to Intel means the loss of the AltiVec. So what now for AG BLAST? The route forward seems to be clear through Apple's "Accelerate" framework which can be used to generate AltiVec/SSE (Intel's equivalent) code. This seems from first glance to handle all of the inconsistencies -- "little-endian/big-endian" conversions, etc. -- and will hopefully lead to AG BLAST and other scientific code being able to take advantage of SSE which looks as if it could be a long term match for AltiVec. Let's hope that this framework and support for Intel on OSX from other widely used solutions such as macstl (forum post from supplier) and Absoft Fortran (press release) will make for a fast and bright future for scientific computing on OSX.

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