Meet the Raspberry Pi Supercomputer--with Lego!

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 12, 2012

As we've noted, when it comes to the top open source stories of 2012, it's clear that one of the biggest is the proliferation of tiny, inexpensive Linux-based computers at some of the smallest form factors ever seen. And, the diminutive, credit card-sized Raspberry Pi, priced at $25 and $35, is one of the most widely followed of these miniature systems. People are putting all flavors of Linux and even Android on the tiny computers, and now news comes from the University of Southampton that Professor Simon Cox and his team of researchers have lashed together an actual supercomputer made of 64 credit card-sized Raspberry Pis using Lego pieces as the glue for the cluster.

Professor Cox said: “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.”

You can get the guide to making your own Raspberry Pi supercomputer here, and find more information on Cox's version here.

A quick glance at the instructions supplied by Cox and his team make clear that it's not hard to build one of these supercomputers, and the Lego casing is certainly very cool.

So what kind of power does this supercomputer pack? As The Register notes:

"The cheapo cluster has 1TB of storage, thanks to the 16GB SD card inserted into each board, and 16GB of RAM. Each Pi is connected by 100MBit Ethernet, and is powered by a Broadcom BCM2835 graphics chip that handily features a 700MHz ARMv6 processor core. he Debian GNU/Linux cluster runs off a single 13-amp mains plug, and uses the Message Passing Interface (MPI) protocol to manage the communications between each of the 64 nodes. Professor Cox wrote the control code in Python using Microsoft's Visual Studio."

The team from Southampton claims it built its supercomputer for under $5,000. Did you ever come up with that when you used to play with Lego blocks? Here's a gander at the lashup:

Photo Credits: University of Southampton and Professor Simon Cox