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If you've ever wanted your very own highly parallel supercomputer - but been put off by the price well maybe you'll be interested in this...
Engineers at the University of Southampton in the UK have bodged together a bunch of Raspberry Pi single-board microcomputers to create their own version of a supercomputer.
Okay, so the Raspberry Pi isn't really a power-house of processing power but the final specs for the completed supercomputer isn't too bad at all, especially when you consider the paltry price tag of just under £2,500 (around $4,900 NZ).
The Raspberry "super" Pi has a terrabyte of memory and 618,000 MIPS, making it about 3.5 times faster than the Intel Core i7 Extreme running at 3.33GHz.
But perhaps the best thing about this little supercomputer is...
It's held together with Lego.
Yes, stringing a bunch of ARM based SBCs together with some networking cables is easy enough -- but building the racking from Lego is pure genius!
Okay, so to be honest, this little ARMarda of computers isn't really that powerful and you could probably get more MIPs for your dollar if you went out and bought some standard PC motherboards with i7 processors - but that's not the point.
Building one of these highly parallel computing systems would be a great introduction to the concept of highly parallel computing and the problems/benefits that such systems represent.
Unfortunately, the Pi probably isn't the best choice for this type of application -- given that it has a GPU which will be spinning its wheels -- chewing power but really contributing nothing. What a shame the GPU code isn't open-sourced so that perhaps its processing power could also be harnessed and put to some use.
Never the less -- the fact that the Pi is cheap and uses Linux makes the learning curve far shorter for those who just want to do some hands-on learning about seriously parallel systems.
I'm still waiting for a couple more Pi SBCs and a handful of laser modules to turn up so I can start work on the FUNet project.
What will be the next "big thing" in the world of Pi?
Do you have any ideas?
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