Cheap, tiny, underpowered computers are becoming a hot new trend in the computing world ever since the $25 and $35 Raspberry Pi models broke onto the scene. For the most part, the Raspberry Pi gets all the buzz, as it both kicked off the trend, and is the cheapest of the cheap, tiny, underpowered computers you can get. Now, though, Adapteva is attempting to make a splash on the scene with its $99 parallel-processing board for Linux. The board may not seem cheap by comparison, but considering Adapteva is attempt to bring supercomputer to the everyman for under one hundred dollars, it probably deserves a pass for not matching the Pi’s $25 price tag.
For the uninitiated, parallel computing is the process by which various calculations are performed at the same time, breaking up a larger problem into separate, smaller bits so those bits can be calculated simultaneously. Massively powerful supercomputers, such as IBM’s Blue Gene/P, employ parallel computing.
Dubbed Parallela, Adapteva’s board is roughly the size of a credit card, similar to the Raspberry Pi, but packs a significantly more powerful punch. Parallela comes with 1GB of RAM, 2 USB 2.0 ports, a microSD slot, an HDMI connection, and a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. All of those specs are fairly standard for a little $99 computer nowadays, except along with the Parallela’s ARM A9 processor, it comes with a 64-core Epiphany Multicore Accelerator, which helps the board achieve around 90 gigaflops. For comparison, that amount of GFLOPS is equivalent to a 45GHz processor. Like a majority of supercomputers, Parallela will use a Linux distribution; in this case, Ubuntu 12.04.
Though Adapteva’s Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded back in October, the company announced this week that it built the first Parallela. For the average consumer, the boards won’t suddenly replace standard desktops or gaming rigs, but will act as more of a powerful — but cheap and energy efficient — dedicated box.
The Parallela boards will be shipping this summer, not only to Kickstarter backers, but to other customers as well.
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