Kickstarter has been used to fund a lot of products with questionable real life utility, but the Parallella supercomputer might actually do some good. This $99 device was funded last year, and the boards are about to go out to backers. In the meantime, the makers have fulfilled their promise to make Parallella completely open source.
How can a supercomputer only cost $99? Well, it’s not a supercomputer in the traditional sense. Parallella is a credit card-size board with a Zynq-7010 dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 system-on-a-chip (SoC), 1GB of RAM, two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD slot, an HDMI connection, and a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. Along with the ARM chip, there is an Epiphany co-processor with either 16 or 64 cores. Each core is clocked at 700MHz, but the system only consumes 5 watts of power at load.
The 16-core version is the headlining $99 supercomputer, but the 64-core device is $750. That second system might sound expensive but, for the right kind of application, these systems could be a very good value. A program that properly utilizes all 64 cores could perform like it was running on a multi-thousand dollar server.
Parallella comes with a distro of Ubuntu, but can be used to run just about anything now that all the hardware designs and code are public. The Linux kernel, SDK scripts, u-boot, and all the other software goodies are on Github. The hardware documentation is also there. The company has even provided Solidworks files of the Parallella board.
Kickstarter backers are getting first crack at the Parellella, so you can’t place an order for one just yet. You can register to be notified when they’re on sale again, but there’s no telling when that will be. As with most Kickstarters, the date for delivery has already been pushed back several months.
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