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

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.”

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