Engineers build Raspberry Pi supercomputer

Sep 11, 2012
Professor Cox and his son James with the Raspberry Pi supercomputer

(Phys.org)—Computational Engineers at the University of Southampton have built a supercomputer from 64 Raspberry Pi computers and Lego.

The team, led by Professor Simon Cox, consisted of Richard Boardman, Andy Everett, Steven Johnston, Gereon Kaiping, Neil O'Brien, Mark Scott and Oz Parchment, along with Professor Cox's son James Cox (aged 6) who provided specialist support on Lego and system testing.

Professor Cox comments: "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 . 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."

The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Simon and James, who has also been testing the Raspberry Pi by programming it using free computer programming software Python and Scratch over the summer. 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 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). Professor Cox uses the free plug-in 'Python Tools for Visual Studio' to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.

Professor Cox adds: "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."

James Cox (aged 6) says: "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."

If you want to build a Supercomputer yourself see: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~sjc/raspberrypi

Explore further: Computer scientists win a major grant to network mobile devices in the cloud

More information: www.raspberrypi.org/

Related Stories

Atomic time for the Raspberry Pi

Jun 26, 2012

A blog post on DesignSpark - an online community for electronic engineers - has described how the Raspberry Pi mini computer can be synchronised with NPL's atomic time scale via the MSF Radio Time Signal.

Raspberry Pi gets customized OS called Raspbian

Jul 18, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The no-nonsense, bareboned, elemental $35 computer called Raspberry Pi is making headlines again with its Wednesday announcement of its new Raspbian operating system, described as an OS specifically ...

Raspberry Pi will roll with Android 4.0

Aug 02, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Broadcom developer Naren Sankar is porting Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) over to the little $35 computer from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and so far the two coexist nicely, though with more ...

Raspberry Pi to add camera later this year

May 22, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The Raspberry Pi, a uniquely priced, no casing computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard., will be given a camera accessory later this year. That may be “oh-so-what” news if this ...

Foundation readies $25 computer to seed tech talents

Dec 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A $25 computer targeted to help young people learn about computers beyond uploading pics and downloading documents is about to start volume-production in January. The Raspberry Pi project, a UK-based foundation, will pla ...

Distributors reel from Mad Wednesday rush for $35 Pi

Mar 01, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- No long lines winding down Madison Avenue; no marching bands in Barcelona; no glossy ads in mainstream magazines. Just news of a product available for pre-order is all it took to trigger a ...

Recommended for you

Cutting the cloud computing carbon cost

Sep 12, 2014

Cloud computing involves displacing data storage and processing from the user's computer on to remote servers. It can provide users with more storage space and computing power that they can then access from anywhere in the ...

Teaching computers the nuances of human conversation

Sep 12, 2014

Computer scientists have successfully developed programs to recognize spoken language, as in automated phone systems that respond to voice prompts and voice-activated assistants like Apple's Siri.

Mapping the connections between diverse sets of data

Sep 12, 2014

What is a map? Most often, it's a visual tool used to demonstrate the relationship between multiple places in geographic space. They're useful because you can look at one and very quickly pick up on the general ...

User comments : 13

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ahaveland
5 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2012
"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."

That's not fair. You can't mention this without mentioning its time!
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (4) Sep 11, 2012
James Cox (aged 6) says: "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."

No, the amazing thing is a 6 year old can say such things! The time would have been nice however. What level of computing power do you need to call it a supercomputer? I remember when 1 megaflop was considered super, I think there was a short lived magazine with that name! Very short lived....

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp
Bowler_4007
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
this is truly awesome.. best article i have ever seen on PhysOrg
eric96
1 / 5 (3) Sep 11, 2012
Would be much wiser to build it using Jaguar.
http://news.softp...e-3.jpg/

That's the product I am waiting for, and will use it in a triple configuration. They are so power efficient that atom and desktop CPUs become irrelevant; at least to me. Even a 4 core atom won't compare to this monster. This is the power efficient version of Bulldozer. It will be the best CPU AMD ever designed.
Hengine
not rated yet Sep 11, 2012
But will it play Crysis on max settings?
Yes
1 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2012
We calculated PI.

Out of this world. This computer.
They finally calculated pi.
Duh. I must certainly be ignorant.
Am I?

O well Pi=1.
Now we must calculate what used to be 1.
That would be 0.31830988618379067153776752674503
Now how many digits and how long did it take?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 12, 2012
Would be much wiser to build it using Jaguar.

If you've won the lottery, maybe.
No, the amazing thing is a 6 year old can say such things! The time would have been nice however.
Since Python runs about 6 times slower than a pure C program I wouldn't expect stellar features for the performance. But that wasn't the point of the excercise.
eric96
1 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2012
Well, you'll find complete whole systems for 150 (tax inc.) www.newegg.com cpu & motherboard combos E350
7 systems per thousand
70 for 10,000 that's pretty cheap for a supercomputer.
You forget how cheap these cpu and whole systems are priced
Rasberry pie cost 30$ X 70 = 2100$
The problem is you can't compare gigahert to gigahert because its wrong and it would mean that you'd get half the performance for 5 times less the price. If you're just calculating PI then rasberry Pi probably the way to go, but for everything else Jaguar will own it probably 10-20 times over. Unlike Intel, AMD doesn't lower their cheap chips as much, because otherwise they wouldn't sell much, but the point is this is a massive win win for the consumer. AMD feels the pressure and are putting everything into Jaguar; hands down its what you want to build it with unless you go the graphic card route which will be at least 20 times more costly.
eric96
1 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2012
Well, you'll find complete whole systems for 150 (tax inc.) on newegg.com (E350)
Lets do the math: 4 cores X 2 ghz = 8 points. Now for rasberry pie, 900mhz x 1 = 0.9 points now remove 0.4 because arm is slower than x86 in many applications you are left with 0.5 points for 30$ vs 8 points for 150$. We've haven' talked about the graphics and GPU compute aspects which are a massive rape.
If we invest 10,000, we get 560 points on CPU side (70 systems) for AMD and 166.66 points for rasberry pi (333.3 systems).

kris2lee
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2012
@eric96

RasperryPi only supports Fast Ethernet.
MarkyMark
not rated yet Sep 13, 2012
But will it play Crysis on max settings?

It can! Just get the RasberryPi version when it comes out or even better make it (Winks).

Seriously tho this is i consider one of the most important innovations in computer tech for a decade as this will allow annyone be it a child at school or home learn and geta real interest and the means in programming. Something that is seriously lacking till now true it can be done better for the same price but who cares its now out there so innovate away children.
vince stewart
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
I think the cluster could be called a pi-rack.
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012
It's called a "Super Computer" - not because of it's wankerflop capacity, but because you can say, "Oh Super! - it works and does shit, like calculating Pye - some of the way, eventually."

"Daddy! - Mummy! - today as skool we bult a computerand it's smashing - it's absolutely SUPER!"

So it is a super computer.