Raspberry Pi meets Lego in supercomputer-like cluster: Photos

Raspberry Pi meets Lego in supercomputer-like cluster: Photos

Summary: Six-year-old James Cox has helped his dad and other engineers at the University of Southampton to build a £2,500 supercomputer-style cluster out of 64 Linux-based Raspberry Pi PCs and Lego.

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  • A team of computational engineers at the University of Southampton has built a working supercomputer-like cluster out of 64 Raspberry Pi boards.

    The cluster sits on racks made of Lego, runs off a standard mains socket, and has a total memory of 1TB, derived from 16GB SD cards on each Raspberry Pi. Its total cost was £2,500.

    "As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers, we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer," said Professor Simon Cox, who led the project and even enlisted the help of his six-year-old son James in the design.

    The computer uses a system called MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. According to Professor Cox, the machine's first task was to calculate Pi on the Raspberry Pi using MPI.

    Image: University of Southampton

  • The Raspberry Pi is a £25 Linux-based computer designed by Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is intended to help kids learn to code and to encourage home-brew computing projects. Since its launch in February, computing fans have been desperate to get their hands on the device, with some starting up events called 'Jams' to show off inventions based on the Raspberry Pi.

    The Raspberry Pi supercomputer at Southampton has been named 'Iridis-Pi' after the university's Iridis HPC machine, which has 8064 processor cores providing over 72 TFlops.

    "The team wants to see this low-cost system as a starting point to inspire and enable students to apply high-performance computing and data handling to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges as part of our ongoing outreach activities," Professor Cox said.

    The team has published a guide to help people build their own supercomputer using the Debian software installed on the Raspberry Pi.

    Image: University of Southampton

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Topics: After Hours, Open Source

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9 comments
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  • All The Basic Architecture Of A Supercomputer ...

    ... in a package cheap enough to use as an undergrad teaching tool. It may not be Top500 material, but it could help train the programmers and engineers who will create the next 500 entrants to the Top500.
    ldo17
    • Absolutely.

      And the whole point of the Pi.

      Don't you want a go of it.

      I know I do.
      Bozzer
  • Hmm

    I wonder how well this would work as a rendering farm.
    slickjim
  • Didn't get the PI from RS then

    They manage to source 64 fruity machines and I am still waiting for 1 to arrive?
    suckersink
  • This is really cool!

    Looking forward to read how it performs in computing π as well as, perhaps, some LAPACK tests.
    This is showing how the arm technology has advanced and what it can produce when coupled with GNU/Linux and human ingenuity. However, what is the deal with 1TB of memory made from SD cards? Is it meant to be used as swap? SD cards are essentially slower than sdram, the slowest of ram. If I remember correctly, Raspberry π has 256mb of sdram. So, does this actually mean 16GB of RAM?
    eulampius
    • You can get higher class memory cars, up to class 10.

      They are a little more expensive, but worth it when you are trying to use them to swap as main memory.
      Joe.Smetona
  • Greedy

    And this is why RS will be late shipping my order for 1 Pi!

    Thanks!
    Sir Benfro
    • Money talks...

      and apparently you don't have enough of it.
      gribittmep
  • So I'm a little surprised here.

    They managed to spend more on the Raspberry Pi computers than the Legos. You'd figure it would have been the other way around.

    Also, what's the power draw on those things? Me thinks it would make more sense to power them off of a single high-output supply over 64 wall warts or line lumps. using a large baseplate, you could have a power supply and the racks of Pi together in a space about 40cm x 40cm, and maybe less.
    Champ_Kind