In recent years, we've seen both the research and volunteer communities embrace open-source hardware, such as the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. In one example, researchers at the University of Southampton created a high-performance computer with 64 Raspberry Pis’ and approximately one terabyte of memory. Now, we’ve spotted a new project on crowd-funding website Kickstarter that promises an open-source multicore, multiprocessor architecture that can deliver a high-performance computer for only $99 (€77).
The project is called Parallella and has been started by Adapteva, a four-year-old company which designs hardware such as low-power parallel chips. Parallella is basically a kit that contains open-source software and hardware that will enable the construction of a small, cheap, and powerful high-performance computer.
The package comes with one gigabyte of RAM and even a HDMI connection. And users who purchase the kit will be able to use open software such as C, C++, or python languages to program the hardware. But, the jewel in the crown are energy-efficient Epiphany RISC processors, with 16 or 64 cores, and a total CPU performance of up to 45 gigahertz that fits onto a space no larger than a credit card according to their website. This computer would only use five watts of power too. Applications of this architecture could be for programming robots in object recognition and higher cognition functions, for example.
For now though, it remains to be seen if the project will reach its Kickstarter funding target of $750,000 (€580,818). Perhaps it will, but perhaps it's more likely that the dream of cheap high-performance computers for everyone will remain elusive for just a little longer yet.
- Adrian Giordani