The CM-5 system consists of a set of processing nodes that are usually divided into smaller groups called partitions. The number of partitions and their sizes tend to vary with site. Each partition of the CM-5 has its own control processor known as the partition manager. The total number of processing nodes can range from 32 up to 16,384.
Each processing node consists of a SPARC processor operating at 32 MHz or 40 MHz. Together with its four vector units, a 32 MHz processing node is capable of performing 64-bit floating point arithmetic at a rate of 128 megaflops. The control processor, which is also referred to as the partition manager, is a Sun SPARCstation. The CM-5 is a distributed memory machine. Each processing node has a primary memory available locally. The size of this memory varies with location. A small portion of this memory is occupied by the operating sytem and the rest is available to the user program.