How cheaply can you build a supercomputer? A group from the University of Southampton just made one using 64 Raspberry Pi ARM GNU/Linux boxes ($25 each) and Lego blocks. The machine, named "Iridis-Pi" after the University's Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet.
The team was led by Professor Simon Cox and included Richard Boardman, Andy Everett, Steven Johnston, Gereon Kaiping, Neil O'Brien, Mark Scott and Oz Parchment. Professor Cox's son, six-year-old James Cox, assisted with specialist support on Lego and system testing.
The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Cox and son. The whole system cost under £2,500 (excluding switches) and has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi). Cox uses the plug-in 'Python Tools for Visual Studio' to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.
Professor Simon Cox and technology specialist James with Iridis-Pi. Credit: University of Southampton.
"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. 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," said the elder Cox. "The first test we ran - well obviously we calculated Pi on the Raspberry Pi using MPI, which is a well-known first test for any new supercomputer. 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 on-going outreach activities."
Young James added, "The Raspberry Pi is great fun and it is amazing that I can hold it in my hand and write computer programs or play games on it."
He's not kidding. The six-year-old used Python and Scratch over the summer to program the Raspberry Pi himself.
Have some Legos and $1,600 laying around (hey, the UK charges more for everything but they get free check-ups)? They put the instructions up here and now you can build your own supercomputer. Take that, Instructables.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Parkinson’s Disease Reverted In Rats
- ‘Get A Lovely Bust For Christmas’: 1930s Tips For How To Be A Festive Woman
- Only One Third Of Dr. Oz Show Recommendations Is Believable, Finds Analysis
- Oceanlab Scientists Film Supergiant Amphipod and Deepest Fish
- The Hydrological Rise And Fall Of The Roman Empire
- Sports Math: Using A Cricket Nightwatchman Is A Bad Idea
- Why I’ll Talk Policy With Climate Change Deniers But Not Science
- "Read more about the deepest fish etc., from Alan Jamieson, Senior Lecturer, Oceanlab at University..."
- "Open access to data http://inspirehep.net/record/749860/data..."
- "Yes indeed.In passing, one of my many nicknames is Compo. Now that I no longer need to wear..."
- "Just curious; why do you bounce all over a science site with no intention other than crapping all..."
- Concerns raised about variable performance of some UK personal use breathalyzers
- Alaska fish adjust to climate change by following the food
- Research shows E.B. White was right in 'Charlotte's Web'
- NASA's SDO captures images of 2 mid-level flares
- Lost memories might be able to be restored, new UCLA study indicates