updated 05:50 pm EST, Mon December 14, 2009
Fastra II hits 12Tflops with GTX 295, 275 cards
The University of Antwerp has revealed what it believes is one of the fastest computers ever to fit into a regular tower chassis. Called just the Fastra II, its main processor is just a 2.66GHz Core i7 but uses many video cards to achieve performance that would normally require a cluster. It combines six dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 cards with a single GeForce GTX 275 to provide a total of 13 GPUs in a single desktop. Since the NVIDIA cards can accelerate CUDA and other general-purpose computing tasks, the sheer parallelism lets the PC handle up to 12 teraflops of general work as well as 3D graphics.
The Belgian school estimates that the system is about four times faster than both the original Fastra and a 512-core regular computing cluster. It should be used primarily for tomography, or creating 3D images of bones and organs from X-ray images, which in turn can lead to recreating missing parts in patients.
Despite its exceptional loadout, the system still runs on primarily off-the-shelf components elsewhere and uses an ASUS P6T7 WS mainboard to accommodate all seven video cards; one 1,500W power supply and three 450W supplies keep the extreme power demands in check. A 1TB Samsung hard drive, 12GB of DDR3 memory, and the Lian-Li case are all stock. The only modifications are a custom cage to suspend the GeForce boards and a custom kernel for the CentOS Linux build that runs the design.
The system can be rebuilt for 6000 euros ($8,791).