The Raspberry Pi “Bite Size” Cluster
Recently, a computational scientist named Ben Eagan put together one of the smallest clusters ever made. Ben a recent graduate of the EPCC MSc. in High Performance Computing, where he designed the hardware and developed the software for a “mini” cluster utilizing the Raspberry Pi.
This is a completely operational “mini” cluster constructed from 8 connected Raspberry Pis (RPis) which are housed in a transparent enclosure to allow students to see the inner workings of the parallel machine. The cluster design includes different colored cables (power, ethernet) help to visually assist the students to understand how the cluster’s construction and how the networked systems work as one. The cluster is connected to a display to view various parallel computations including: a parallel Game of life and ray tracing demos.
“In October 2012 Ben was assigned to build a Raspberry Pi cluster as apart of the outreach programme within ICHEC. He was pretty excited to get his hands on a number of Pis and get to work. He had just finished a master’s in High Performance Computing in Edinburgh at EPCC. Several of his classmates had been planning to build a Raspberry Pi cluster of their own as a Dissertation project, but demand was so high they were forced to plan something else. So he felt quite privileged to have access to this hardware, and was determined to put it to good use.
One of the requirements for this cluster was that it exist in a transparent enclosure to allow viewers to easily see all the details of the system. While a simple transparent box would have been ok, he decided to get a bit creative. Being a fan of puns, a Raspberry Pi cluster had great potential. The first plan was to build an octagonal enclosure with eight pi shaped wedges containing a Raspberry Pi, sitting above the networking. After some more thought, he decided the symbol Pi had a lot of potential, and decided to try to build a freestanding Pi symbol capable of housing a cluster. He did some initial designs using Google Sketchup, and set to work with something that could be generously called a plan”
If you would like to see this unit in person visit the ICHEC stand at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition from the 10 to 12th of January 2013.