Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes at CMU builds cluster out of netbook parts

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Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University announced this week that they’ve stitched together embedded processors and flash memory to create a reference low-power architecture for data intensive computing

An experimental computing cluster based on this so-called Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes (FAWN) architecture was able to handle 10 to 100 times as many queries for the same amount of energy as a conventional, disk-based cluster. The FAWN cluster had 21 nodes, each with a low-cost, low-power off-the-shelf processor and a four-gigabyte compact flash card. At peak utilization, the cluster operates on less energy than a 100-watt light bulb.

Researchers are also working on a next generation version based on the Atom (we saw a concept computer from SGI at SC08 based on the Atom; that system was codenamed “Molecule”).

“FAWN will probably never be a good option for challenging real-time applications such as high-end gaming,” Kaminsky said. “But we’ve shown it is a cost-effective, energy efficient approach to designing key-value storage systems and we are now working to extend the approach to applications such as large-scale data analysis.”