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Thread: Building your own computational cluster server

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    Building your own computational cluster server

    By far the cheapest way to get introduced into building your own cluster server is via the good-old Raspberry Pi platform.

    This is a Raspberry Pi 3+ Model B that has been fitted with a Cluster HAT Kit Zero, which enables to combine the Raspberry Pi 3+ with up to four Raspberry Pi Zero's.
    Performance-wise this will not be impressive, but it doesn't break the bank and is meant to teach you all the ins and outs of cluster servers.
    The next step would be to combine more capable Raspberry Pi's in a cluster, either by stacking full form Pi's, or by combining Raspberry Compute Modules.
    It all depends on how much Raspberries you have to start with and how much money you are willing to spend on your cluster. And you don't need to stop at Raspberries: you can use nVidia Jetson Xavier NX modules too.
    Last edited by Dirk Broer; 01-01-2021 at 01:36 AM.

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    NeoGen is offline AMD Users Alchemist Moderator
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    I've wanted to tinker and play with a tiny cluster of RPIs for a long time, but my lazy self starts thinking "it's so going to be so much work" and I talk myself out of it every time

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    Though a bit cheezy in its humor, this is an excellent series to introduce you to Raspberry Pi clustering by means of the compute module 3/3+ and the Turing Pi 1. And if you rather read and/or print out the info: here is his blog.

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    Better to go with Odroids from Hardkernel.com

    More bang per buck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vaughan View Post
    Better to go with Odroids from Hardkernel.com

    More bang per buck.
    More bang per buck? That depends....Compared to the Raspberry Pi 3 or the Compute Module 3 (CM3), yes. But my four-core Raspberry Pi 4's score about the same level of credit when clocked to 2000 MHz as the six-core Odroid-N2+'s, that have four Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2400 MHz and two Cortex-A53 cores at 2016 Mhz. The Pi's are cheaper in purchase and run at 5V/3A, while the Odroid-N2+ runs at 12V/2A. I haven't yet measured the actual power draw. The new Raspberry Compute Module 4 can be overclocked to 2300 MHz, four of those in a Turing Pi 2...

    Cooling-wise the Odroid-N2+ (with 80mm fan) trashes the Raspberry: I haven't had them above 40 degrees Celsius yet, while the Raspberries go up to 53 degrees -under the 52Pi Ice Towers coolers.

    WEP-M+2 has my 2400/2016 MHz N2+ at
    Measured 'floating point' speed 3179.34 million ops/sec
    Measured 'integer' speed 86157.67 million ops/sec
    averages per core - the values for the four Cortex-A73 held back by their weaker two Cortex-A53 siblings.

    The Pi 4@ 2000 MHz:
    Measured 'floating point' speed 2770.71 million ops/sec
    Measured 'integer' speed 79748.31 million ops/sec
    averages per core

    In the end the 4GB N2+ is the Hardkernel champion -but a 4GB Pi 4 or CM4 is half the price.
    Last edited by Dirk Broer; 01-08-2021 at 09:18 PM.

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    Let's play a bit further with the idea of building a ARM computational cluster server.

    So far we have for a 64-bit computational cluster server:
    • The Turing Pi 2, with four 4GB or 8GB CM4's, preferably running from eMMC or even better: SSD.
    • The Turing Pi 1, with seven 4GB or 8GB CM4's via CM4 to CM3 adapter, also preferably running from eMMC, or SSD -if possible.
    • A stack of four (or more) Odroid-N2's and/or N2+'s.
    • Another possibility is a nVidia Jetson Nano cluster.


    If you want a 32-bit computational cluster server:
    • The Turing Pi 1, with seven CM3's or (preferably) CM3+'s, running from eMMC or -if possible- SSD.
    • A stack of Odroid-HC1's or -HC2's, basically a miniature Odroid-XU4 featuring the basic minimum of IO and a gigantic heatsink that eliminates the noisy XU4 cooler, plus provision for a 2.5inch HDD/SSD (HC1) or a 3.5inch or 2.5inch HDD/SSD (HC2).
    • A stack of Tinker Board S's.


    The boards used in the Turing Pi's and the Jetson Nano Cluster take away much of the sheer mess of cables that one associates with ARM cluster servers.

    The 'more bang for a buck' in the 32-bit category goes to Hardkernel for sure. Their boards are eight-cores (four high-performance Cortex-A15's plus four medium-performance Cortex-A7's), while the rest of the competition are quad-cores. The Turing Pi 1 suffers from a CPU frequency limitation (1200 MHz) due to its 200-pin SODIMM interface, while the quad-core Tinker Board S are 100 Euro's a piece.
    You could of course try for a stack of Raspberry Pi 3+ boards -bit you can also consider to make them Raspberry Pi 4's, either the 1GB -now discontinued- or the 2GB model, which is enough for a 32-bit OS.
    Two Raspberry Pi 4 2GB Model B's are about the price of an Odroid HC1 or HC2, but the latter can be stacked onto each other for casing and only need a 120mm fan for additional cooling.

    Left: Six HC1's in various combinations. Right: The HC2 is even broader to accommodate a 3.5" disk and offers still more cooling surface.
    Cooling and stacking the Raspberries might be more expensive. This might be circumvented by making the boards 2GB CM4's and using the Turing Pi 2. Pricing for the Turing Pi 2 is yet unknown though.

    The 'more bang for a buck' in the 64-bit category goes -tentatively- to the nVidia Jetson cluster, because it can effortlessly be upgraded with e.g. Xavier NX modules that replace the 4GB Nano's, or 4GB Nano's replacing the 2GB Nano's. This might change with the advent of a future Raspberry Pi 5 or Odroid-N3 of course, but for now the only disadvantage of the nVidia solution is that BOINC-wise its CUDA cores are inactive. Kudo's for the future developer who changes that.

    Left: One Xavier NX with three Nano's Right: Casing, including RGB cooling.
    Last edited by Dirk Broer; 01-13-2021 at 10:53 AM.

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