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Wandboard Octopus Cluster Interview

Working on an interesting project that uses the Wandboard and want to share with the community about your experience or want others to join the project. Get in touch with us in the forums or by email.

This time we are talking with the Octopus Cluster project team at the Unversity of Frankfurt.

Tell us a bit about yourself/team

I am currently a PHD candidate at the University of Frankfurt (Germany). My supervisor is professor for computer science and chair of the department of high performance computer architectures also at the University of Frankfurt. Our group designs and builds supercomputers for different purposes, such as CERN experiments or scientific computing (e.g. at KACST in Saudi-Arabia). The last super computer which our group built was the SANAM cluster, which ranked second in the list of the most energy efficient supercomputers world wide.

What project are you currently working on?

My current research is related to operating systems for supercomputers. Besides that I am interested in energy efficiency of massively parallel computers. Therefore I started the Octopus Cluster project with a student who I am currently supervising. Octopus is a compute cluster, consisting of eight compute- and one head node, all together Wandboards. It can be used like most cluster computers — programs use MPI to communicate between nodes and OpenCL to compute at nodes.

How did the Wandboard help you to kick-start your project?

The Wandboard is a powerful and yet very inexpensive computer. The ARM architecture is interesting for building an energy efficient computer. As I mentioned before, our Group is interested in energy efficiency. If you take a look at the project page, you will see that the Wandboard provides everything we needed at a very affordable price.

Why you picked the Wandboard and how does it fit in your project?

The Wandboard features a gigabit network adapter and a GPU which can run OpenCL programs. Most comparable device do not come with both.

The Wandboard is completely open source, is this important for your project?

Our group also builds hardware. Having schematics of a device like the Wandboard always helps.

What are your next steps and will you use the Wandboard in your final design?

We use the Wandboard to evaluate the ARM architecture for supercomputing. Currently we do not have a final design for a supercomputer which is ARM-based. However, the modular design makes parts of the Wandboard interesting to be included in a hypothetical system. For instance, the SoC module could be staked into a backplane which is more suitable for supercomputing than the current I/O-board is.

How can people that have a Wandboard join your project?

People who own more than two Wandboards might be interested in building their own cluster. In this case we can provide our software setup as image files. However, owning a Wandboard is not necessarily needed, because external users can get access to the Octopus cluster. Additionally, my supervisor is always looking for new PHD students. Therefore, if anyone who reads this has a master degree and is also interested to work with such technology, feel free to contact me.

If you have a new project. Will you use the Wandboard again?

It depends. From the technical perspective definitely, but the delivery time in Germany is between 6 weeks and two months.

Where can people get more information about your project and get in touch with you?

Staff page: https://compeng.uni-frankfurt.de/index.php?id=143&L=1

Octopus Cluster project page: https://compeng.uni-frankfurt.de/index.php?id=171

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