Wednesday, May 29, 2013

UPDATED--"Build your own supercomputer out of Raspberry Pi boards"

Update below.
Original post:
If you are new to this stuff, listen up. What's going on with Rasberry Pi is a throwback to Packard and Hewlett, Jobs and Wozniak or any other garage band you can think of.
Folks are taking these tiny computers and using them to do everything from controlling LEGO robots to this impressive bit of tinkering.
From ZD Net:

Who says you need a few million bucks to build a supercomputer? Joshua Kiepert put together a Linux-powered Beowulf cluster with Raspberry Pi computers for less than $2,000.
When you think do-it-yourself (DIY) computing, you probably think of setting up a screaming gaming computer or putting together the best possible components for the least amount of money. You're almost certainly not considering putting together a supercomputer. Maybe you should. Joshua Kiepert, a doctoral student at Boise State's Electrical and Computer Engineering department, has managed to create a mini-supercomputer using Raspberry Pi (RPi) computers for less than $2,000.

Say hello to a homebrew Raspberry Pi-based supercomputer.

Raspberry Pi is a single-board Linux-powered computer. They're powered by 700MHz ARM11-processors and include a Videocore IV GPU. The Model B, which is what Kiepert is using, comes with 512MBs of RAM, two USB ports and a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet port. For his project Kiepert overclocked the processors to 1GHz.

By itself the Raspberry Pi is interesting, but it seems an unlikely supercomputer component. But, Kiepert had a problem. He was doing his doctoral research on data sharing for wireless sensor networks by simulating these networks on Boise State's Linux-powered Onyx Beowulf-cluster supercomputer. This modest, by supercomputer standards, currently has 32 nodes, each of which has a 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E3-1225 quad-core processor and 8GBs of RAM.

A Beowulf cluster is simply a collection of inexpensive commercial off the shelf (COTS) computers networked together running Linux and parallel processing software. First designed by Don Becker and Thomas Sterling at Goddard Space Flight Center in 1994, this design has since become one of the core supercomputer architectures.

So with a perfectly good Beowulf-style supercomputer at hand, why did Kiepert start to put together his own Beowulf cluster? In a white paper, Creating a Raspberry Pi-Based Beowulf Cluster,  (PDF Link) he explained,

"First, while the Onyx cluster has an excellent uptime rating, it could be taken down for any number of reasons. When you have a project that requires the use of such a cluster and Onyx is unavailable, there are not really any other options on campus available to students aside from waiting for it to become available again. The RPiCluster provides another option for continuing development of projects that require MPI [Message Passing Interface] or Java in a cluster environment....MUCH MORE
Update: "What Are People Doing With the Raspberry Pi Computer? Wired UK on Sale May 30"