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GCHQ Builds a Raspberry Pi Super Computer Cluster

mikejuk writes GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA, has created a 66 Raspberry Pi cluster called the Bramble for “educational” purposes. What educational purposes isn’t exactly clear but you do associate super computers with spooks and spies. It seems that there was an internal competition to invent something and three, unnamed, GCHQ technologists decided that other Pi clusters were too ad-hoc. They set themselves the target of creating a cluster that could be reproduced as a standard architecture to create a commodity cluster. The basic unit of the cluster is a set of eight networked Pis, called an “OctaPi”. Each OctaPi can be used standalone or hooked up to make a bigger cluster. In the case of the Bramble a total of eight OctaPis makes the cluster 64 processors strong. In addition there are two head control nodes, which couple the cluster to the outside world. Each head node has one Pi, a wired and WiFi connection, realtime clock, a touch screen and a camera. This is where the story becomes really interesting. Rather than just adopt a standard cluster application like Hadoop, OctaPi’s creators decided to develop their own. After three iterations, the software to manage the cluster is now based on Node.js, Bootstrap and Angular. So what is it all for? The press release says that: “The initial aim for the cluster was as a teaching tool for GCHQ’s software engineering community….The ultimate aim is to use the OctaPi concept in schools to help teach efficient and effective programming.”


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