Introduction of Abacus

A few thousands years ago, Chinese people used small rods connected to movable counters such as beads to construct a low-cost calculations device, which is called Abacus. Today, we are using a similar approach to construct a low-cost supercomputing system, in which 17 Pentium-III based computers (beads) are connected by a 100Mbps Fast Ethernet switch (rods) to form a parallel supercomputer. That's why we call it Abacus.


Abacus was built in the year 2000, the computation power was one of the best in Hong Kong. For now, it is mainly used to support multimedia signal processing research projects in Computer Systems Lab, Department of Electronic Engineering.

Basically, the Abacus is a Pentium/Linux PC Cluster for Internet-Based Multimedia Applications. In the other words, it is also an implmentation of Beowulf-class supercomputer. The system consist of 17 Pentium-III PCs (16 compute nodes and one front-end node) with 2 processors per PC (total 34 CPUs). The front-end node is a dual Pentium-III 500MHz Dell 4300 server with 256MB RAM and 17 GB of RAID disk storage. Each of compute node is a dual Pentium-III 450MHz PC with 128MB RAM. They are linked together using 100Mbps Fast Ethernet Switch. Fedora Core 4 Linux is used as a local operating system. In addition, the system also has traditional parallel computing tools such as PVM, MPI installed. The Abacus is designed to provide high computational power and all the necessary I/O interfaces for handling real-time multimedia signal processing such as audio/video compression, multimedia database searching, content-based audio classification, etc.

Basic Specs
CPU Pentium-III, 450-500 MHz
Nodes 17 (34CPUs)
Node interconnections 100Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1Gbps Gigabit Ethernet
Storage 17GB, RAID, NFS Shared

Last update: 11 January 2006