Building Supercomputers with Raspberries

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 22, 2013

At some point in the not-too-distant future, building powerful, miniature computing systems will be considered a hobby for high schoolers, just as robotics or even Lego-building are today.

That could be made possible through recent advancements made with the Raspberry Pi computers. These Linux-based computers are as small as a credit card and only cost about 25 to 35 dollars. Last year, the University of Southampton’s Simon Cox coupled 64 of these little systems together to form his own miniature supercomputer.

“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 Cox on how he created a small but powerful supercomputer on Raspberry Pi’s. “We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image and we have published a guide so you can build your own supercomputer.”

As seen in the diagram below, the diminutive processors are brought physically together by Legos while MPI serve as the interconnect system.

Joshua Kiepert, PhD candidate at Boise State, also got involved in building supercomputers out of the Raspberry Pi machines, completing a 32-node cluster that came in at a cost of just under $2000.

“In order to keep the cluster size to a minimum while maintaining ease of access,” Kiepert said in explaining how the computers were clustered, “the RPis (Raspberry Pis) were stacked in groups of eight using PCB-to-PCB standoffs with enough room in between them for a reasonable amount of air flow and component clearance.”

The advantage, according to Kiepert, to building his own system is the ability to outfit and customize based solely on his requirements. Per Kiepert, “by building my own cluster I could outfit it with anything I might need directly.”

Such customization included side-stepping the Pi’s micro-USB power port for a 5-volt pin that attached to the machines’ I/O ports. Further, Kiepert overclocked the Pis when he needed more processing power to run his simulations. With that said, the performance did still leave a little to be desired, according to Kiepert.

This story on fun, creative, and cost-effective ways to build supercomputers could actually represent a significant tool for today’s young learners who will grow up with computers, and in some cases supercomputers, all around them. Understanding the dynamics and logistics of high-performance computing early is important in maintaining interest in the field later in life.

“We want 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,” Cox concluded.

Related Articles

Running Computational Fluid Dynamics in the Cloud

HPC and the True Cost of Cloud

CUDA-Designed Robot: It’s a Hit!

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Nvidia Debuts Turing Architecture, Focusing on Real-Time Ray Tracing

August 16, 2018

From the SIGGRAPH professional graphics conference in Vancouver this week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled Turing, the company's next-gen GPU platform that introduces new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and new Tenso Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Coding: The Power of L(o)osing Control

August 16, 2018

Exascale roadmaps, exascale projects and exascale lobbyists ask, on-again-off-again, for a fundamental rewrite of major code building blocks. Otherwise, so they claim, codes will not scale up. Naturally, some exascale pr Read more…

By Tobias Weinzierl

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum technology used. One idea is to mitigate noisiness and perh Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Super Problem Solving

You might think that tackling the world’s toughest problems is a job only for superheroes, but at special places such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supercomputers are the real heroes. Read more…

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum Read more…

By John Russell

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SLATE Update: Making Math Libraries Exascale-ready

August 9, 2018

Practically-speaking, achieving exascale computing requires enabling HPC software to effectively use accelerators – mostly GPUs at present – and that remain Read more…

By John Russell

Summertime in Washington: Some Unexpected Advanced Computing News

August 8, 2018

Summertime in Washington DC is known for its heat and humidity. That is why most people get away to either the mountains or the seashore and things slow down. H Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

NSF Invests $15 Million in Quantum STAQ

August 7, 2018

Quantum computing development is in full ascent as global backers aim to transcend the limitations of classical computing by leveraging the magical-seeming prop Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

By the Numbers: Cray Would Like Exascale to Be the Icing on the Cake

August 1, 2018

On its earnings call held for investors yesterday, Cray gave an accounting for its latest quarterly financials, offered future guidance and provided an update o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This