Re-used Laptop High-performance Cluster
Supercomputers are big, expensive and need a lot of electricity. This project aims to develop a small low-energy computing cluster for use by NUI Galway students, which will be created by acquiring used laptops from students who are upgrading and then connecting between 10 and 30 of these laptops together. Computing power is a raw resource that various students throughout NUI Galway can benefit from for running software simulations or computation intensive calculations. Laptops consume less energy than desktops or high performance servers making them ideal for distributed or clustered computing. Due to the short lifespan of laptops, students are constantly upgrading laptops, particularly in computing related courses. The students' old laptops then become electrical waste which is expensive to dispose of and recycle. This project hopes to extend the useful life of student laptops by potentially up to 1 year.
The first phase of this project will entail the buying of working and/or only lightly damaged laptops from students who have already upgraded laptops at a price up to €150 per machine. The second phase is the construction and commissioning of this cluster which requires no modification of the laptops or hardware, and does not pose an electrical hazard – new software just needs to be installed. The final phase will include the dissemination of this resource to the student body through a public lecture and tutorial and a website to log into the cluster. The project will also make students aware of the huge role NUI Galway plays in Ireland with its high performance ‘Stoney’ cluster which provides Irish universities with a supercomputer to lease via the ICHEC (Irish Centre for High-End Computing).
We have acquired a sub domain of nuigalway for our project site and access portal for the cluster. CompSoc agreed to supply us with web space for a website. We have also found a space to build (in our offices) and another place to deploy the cluster computer (a cooler empty lab downstairs in the New Engineering building). Also we have permission to use a laptop locker as a server rack for the project. We have also identified our first used laptops and agreed on a fair price of maximum €100 euro for a laptop with some students.
We have acquired a cluster housing and a 24 port 100M switch for our networking, as well as some cabling and a power monitor to give us instant feedback on our power consumption – we hope to make this available on our project website soon. The first laptop is running Folding at Home and the others will also soon be running for the same cause. Folding at Home is a project by Stanford enabling anyone with spare computing power to donate it to valuable protein folding experiments conducted by researchers in universities around the world. Additionally, the first test job has been submitted to the cluster to demonstrate its functionality.
The laptop cluster now has 7 laptops and can run small tasks. A monitoring system has been installed as is used by Wikipedia for monitoring their servers. This will allow students to see the historical utilisation of the cluster. This data will soon be opened up through lpc.nuigalway.ie.