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Cheap Supercomputers – LANL Reveals 750-node Raspberry Pi Cluster

One problem the systems software community has is how to work on very large supercomputers without actually having to test on them, which can be very expensive and hard to access. This week, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has revealed its latest “High-performance computer” – a cluster of 750 Raspberry Pis. This has led to the affordable solution of using thousands of inexpensive Raspberry Pi nodes for R&D work.

LANL’s Gary Grider, leader of the LANL High Performance Computing Division said, The Raspberry Pi modules let developers figure out how to write this software and get it to work reliably without having a dedicated testbed of the same size, which would cost a quarter billion dollars and use 25 megawatts of electricity.

The Raspberry Pi pulls just two or three watts per node, making it cheap to run. In the future, Grider hopes to increase the system to thousands of nodes.

The system at LANL leverages a modular cluster design and style from BitScope Patterns, with 5 rack-mount Bitscope Cluster Modules, each individual with 150 Raspberry Pi boards with built-in community switches. With each of the 750 chips packing four cores, it features a 3000-core really parallelizable platform that emulates an ARM-based supercomputer, allowing scientists to take a look at advancement code without the need of demanding a energy-hungry device at considerable price tag to the taxpayer. The comprehensive 750-node cluster, jogging 2-3 W for every processor, runs at 1000W idle, 3000W at common and 4000W at peak (with the switches) and is considerably less costly, if also computationally a lot slower. After enhancement applying the Pi clusters, frameworks can then be ported to the larger scale supercomputers offered at LANL, these as Trinity and Crossroads.

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The collaboration between LANL and BitScope was formed after the inability to find a suitable dense server that offered a platform for several-thousand-node networking and optimization – most solutions on the market were too expensive, and anyone offering something like the Pi in a dense form factor was ‘just people building clusters with Tinker Toys and Lego’. After the collaboration, the company behind the modular Raspberry Pi rack and blade designs, BitScope, plans to sell the 150-node Cluster Modules at retail in the next few months. No prices were given yet, although BitScope says that each node will be about $120 fully provisioned using the element14 version of the latest Raspberry Pi (normally $35 at retail). That means that a 150-note Cluster Module will fall in around $18k-$20k each.

Sources: BitScope, AnandTech