Build your own supercomputer: First $99 Parallella boards ship

Who says you need millions for a supercomputer? Not Adapteva, which has started shipping its $99 Parallella single-board parallel processing board.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Linux is the top supercomputer operating system. But while you can build your own Linux supercomputer using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, even with just Raspberry Pi boards,  these don't natively support massively parallel computing — the cornerstone of modern supercomputing. That's where Adapteva, with its $99 Parallella parallel processing single-board supercomputer, comes in.

Parallella: A $99 parallel-processing supercomputer in a credit-card sized board. (Credit: Adapteva)

On July 23rd, Adapteva announced that it has started delivering its first Parallella computers to users who ordered the board through its Kickstarter campaign. The credit-card sized Parallella is powered by Adapteva’s breakthrough 16- and 64-core Epiphany multicore processors.  

"The Kickstarter community took a chance that we could deliver an entirely new type of computing platform for only $99," said Andreas Olofsson, Adapteva Founder and CEO in a statement. "We could not have done this without the passion and backing of this unique community and I’m excited to see where the developer community will take this platform in the future."

The first model comes with the following hardware features:

These initial boards use Ubuntu Linux.  Support for other operating systems will depend on community involvement, but Ubuntu is the recommended operating system.

 The mini-supercomputer board also ships with the open-source Epiphany development tools (PDF link). This includes a C compiler, multicore debugger, Eclipse IDE, OpenCL SDK/compiler, and run-time libraries.

There are also several already ongoing Parallella community software projects. These include support for the Go language; GNU radio, a software defined radio; and support for high-performance computing (HPC)'s Message Passing Interface (MPI). In the case of the latter, there's also an ongoing project to build a Beowulf-style supercomputer using Parallella boards.

 After some final refinements, Adapteva promises that the 6,300 Parallella’s ordered via Kickstarter will be delivered by summer's end. Delivery to the entire Kickstarter community will be fulfilled first and general availability orders will ship later this fall. Parallella boards will be available in different build configurations with a starting price of $99.

Pre-orders of the 16-core Parallella platform for the general public can be made at the Adapteva shop . The standard versions for non-Kickstarter backers will have the Zync-7010 dual-core instead, with the 7020 offered as an upgrade.

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