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ASTRA unveils octo-GPU supercomputer

ASTRA unveils octo-GPU supercomputer

The ASTRA desktop supercomputer won't win any design awards, but it is pretty nifty for tomography calculations.

If you're looking for an excuse to buy a top-end graphics card or four for your gaming rig, you'll want to check out the latest happenings at the University of Antwerp.

It seems that the techies over in Belgium have plonked four GeForce 9800GX2 graphics cards in a quad-SLI motherboard – plus the requisite glowing blue fans – to create an eight-GPU desktop supercomputer, according to an article on The Tech Report. The pint-sized processing powerhouse – which came in at a svelte €4,000 – has the same performance of approximately three hundred and fifty desktop PCs based on 'normal' microprocessors.

Sadly, the Nvidia-based supercomputer won't be used for cranking up the frames-per-second in the latest first-person shooters: ASTRA, the group behind the system, plans to use it to process tomographic data from medical scanners to rapidly produce three-dimensional models of patients' internal bits and bobs. Whereas traditional PCs at the €4,000 mark would take a week to crunch through the data, the power of the GPU on the Nvidia cards is such that the same data can be processed in a matter of hours.

Not happy with just having a single octo-core GPU-based supercomputer, the University team is planning an entire cluster of these machines – a project looking to create a system of such power it will be able to render a 3D tomography model in real-time.

The system, built by a team from the Belgium computer shop Tones.be was made using entirely off-the-shelf commercial parts – meaning repeating the stunt to create an ultra-powerful cluster that can also be used as a kick-ass LAN for deathmatches will be well within the reach of the ASTRA group.

If you want to see more of the beast, a gallery is available on the ASTRA website.

Tempted to see if you can utilise the CUDA toolkit to create your own ultra-fast GPU-based processing system, or do you just use your graphics card for gaming? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

15 Comments

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Cupboard 2nd June 2008, 09:16 Quote
Awesome
It reminds me of the xbox server that was going round a little while back.
Interesting that they seem to be using XP. I suppose they could be using XP x64 but if not they would be rather limiting themselves.
liratheal 2nd June 2008, 09:18 Quote
Sweet jesus.

That Armorsuit has a lot of internal space.

And, who can say no to insane hardware being put to good use in the medical field?
Mankz 2nd June 2008, 09:24 Quote
Those cards must be boiling.
Mentai 2nd June 2008, 09:56 Quote
How can they not run just one crysis benchmark? How?!?
yakyb 2nd June 2008, 10:29 Quote
because its an AMD board no sli on AMD boards
theevilelephant 2nd June 2008, 10:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
Awesome
It reminds me of the xbox server that was going round a little while back.
Interesting that they seem to be using XP. I suppose they could be using XP x64 but if not they would be rather limiting themselves.

i remember reading somewhere that it has 8Gb of ram so i assume its running xp64

looks good though, maybe within another year graphics cards will be sufficiently powerfull to render that stuff in real
DXR_13KE 2nd June 2008, 11:40 Quote
those crazy Belgians!!!!

DnIvodB2RzU
identikit 2nd June 2008, 12:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by theevilelephant
i remember reading somewhere that it has 8Gb of ram so i assume its running xp64

Yep
Quote:
We selected Windows XP-64 as the operating system for FASTRA. There were three reasons for choosing this platform: first, we needed a 64-bit operating system, in order to utilize 8GB of RAM. Second, we expected fewer driver issues on Windows compared to Linux. Third, within the Windows product line, Windows Vista is not yet supported by the NVIDIA GPU Computing platform, leaving Windows XP as the only choice. For development, we use Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. The core functionality for our CPU code is written in C++ (Visual C++), while MATLAB is often used as a front-end for rapid prototyping. All GPU code is developed using the NVIDIA CUDA framework, a C-like programming language that allows for efficient programming of the NVIDIA GPUs.

Edit: Damn nice cabling job they did there I must add.
Cupboard 2nd June 2008, 12:16 Quote
Love the bit of Crysis they are playing in that video :D
It must be so tempting to borrow the PC for the weekend!
[USRF]Obiwan 2nd June 2008, 12:40 Quote
Hell yeah! who needs a CPU anyway
bowman 2nd June 2008, 13:27 Quote
'The ASTRA desktop supercomputer won't win any design awards'

Lian Li case is nice enough, cable management is great - sure, it has no case mods, but it's a damn sight better looking than the average desktop PC.
proxess 2nd June 2008, 13:44 Quote
its actually really affordable for what it is. i'd like to know the temperature in that thing tho, specially with some heavy gpu usage.
Icy EyeG 2nd June 2008, 15:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DXR_13KE
those crazy Belgians!!!!

Now we know that there's more than one crazy Belgian out there... :)

It'd be possible to connect quad 9800GX2 to a motherboard like the P5N64 WS Professional by using a PEG flexible extender. They could get SLI, SAS and Intel Core2 Quad by doing so...

I'm curious to know how well does the FASTRA performs against the Tesla series. It'd definitely show if they are worth the money or not...
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
its actually really affordable for what it is. i'd like to know the temperature in that thing tho, specially with some heavy gpu usage.

Starting at 90º C according to the site....
woodshop 3rd June 2008, 02:09 Quote
i love the classy double pack stack of paper monitor stand.
leexgx 3rd June 2008, 03:22 Quote
but an 512 cpu/node system would use more power then this pc is useing for the task its doing
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