Fastra II: 12 Teraflops of Computing Power on a Desktop
Doing a Google image search for “supercomputer” won’t get you anything resembling the latest creation coming out of the University of Antwerp: The Fastra II desktop supercomputer boasts several teraflops of computing power, yet its small size sets it apart from the usual room-sized supercomputers, as does its considerably smaller price tag (6000 euros/$8,791).
The University’s first desktop supercomputer, The Fastra, had only 4 dual-GPU graphics cards (for 8 total GPUs). By comparison, the Fastra II has a total of 13 graphical processing units (six NVIDIA GTX295 dual-GPU cards and a single GTX275 single-GPU card). All this gives the Fastra II 12 teraflops of computing power (12 trillion floating-point operations per second). Most home computers are in the in the gigaflops (billions of floating-point calculation sper second) range, and the TOP500’s fastest supercomputers have reached petaflops (one quadrillion per second) heights.
Fastra II needs all this graphics horsepower to deliver increased resolution on the University’s three dimensional bone scanning procedures. While all this power many not be practical for a den or study, it's sure to impress the neighbors.
The University's researchers had to make some modifications to the components to create Fastra II, including a custom case to hold all of the graphics cards above the motherboard, a custom BIOS, and a customized Linux kernel (since an ordinary 32-bit BIOS couldn’t handle all of the graphics cards simultaneously). The Fastra II is still under development and future developments can be found at the official Web site.
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