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.