At Wabash we originally combined standard desktop computers from Dell Corporation through a 100 Mbit/s full-duplex ethernet switch from Cisco Systems (more recently we have employed myrinet connections to allow greater scalability). Funds for this project were provided by Wabash College and a National Science Foundation Research at Undergraduate Institutions grant to Scott Feller.
We have benchmarked the Little Giant and found that sixteen processors achieve greater than 1 GFLOP (1 billion floating point operations per second) performance on the standard NAS parallel benchmark with near linear scaling (see graph). Using the parallel linback benchmark that forms the basis for the top500 supercomputer ranking, 5.7 GFLOP performance was obtained with 32 processors. During the summer of 99, we installed compilers for the fortran77, fortran90, C, and C++ programming languages. We have also installed libraries of subroutines for parallel programming and scientific computing. Applications programs for carrying out simulations using classical or quantum mechanical methods are also running on the Little Giant. Several students are using this facility in conjunction with independent research projects under the supervision of professor Feller. Additionally, a course in parallel programming was offered by computer science professor David Maharry where students used the Little Giant to run parallel programs that they wrote as class assignments.
This system is based on work by colleagues at the National Institute of Health. For more information see www.lobos.nih.gov