Introducing HPC with a Raspberry Pi Cluster

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Colin Sauze from Aberystwyth University

In this video from FOSDEM 2020, Colin Sauze from Aberystwyth University describes the development of a RaspberryPi cluster for teaching an introduction to HPC.

The motivation for this was to overcome four key problems faced by new HPC users:

  • The availability of a real HPC system and the effect running training courses can have on the real system, conversely the availability of spare resources on the real system can cause problems for the training course.
  • A fear of using a large and expensive HPC system for the first time and worries that doing something wrong might damage the system.
  • That HPC systems are very abstract systems sitting in data centres that users never see, it is difficult for them to understand exactly what it is they are using.
  • That new users fail to understand resource limitations, in part because of the vast resources in modern HPC systems a lot of mistakes can be made before running out of resources. A more resource constrained system makes it easier to understand this.

The talk will also discuss some of the technical challenges in deploying an HPC environment to a Raspberry Pi and attempts to keep that environment as close to a “real” HPC as possible. Methods to automate the installation process will also be covered.

Colin Sauze is a Research Software Engineer working on the Supercomputing Wales project at Aberystwyth University on the west coast of Wales, UK. His current job involves supporting users of HPC systems through a combination of training, troubleshooting and optimizing or writing research software. He is also an instructor for Software Carpentry, a organisation dedicated to improving the computational skills of academic researchers. He holds a PhD in robotics and started using Linux based single board computers that were pre-cursors to the Raspberry Pi to control autonomous sailing robots during his PhD. In his spare time he is interested in building random things out of Raspberry Pi’s, amateur radio, sailing and walking.

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