Raspberry Pi is definitely the world’s most popular single-board computer brand, and that popularity is primarily a result of their low cost and small size. Those factors make Raspberry Pi boards ideal for compact projects, and for portable devices in particular. Oracle, however, has taken the complete opposite approach and built a supercomputer made from a cluster of 1,060 Raspberry Pis.
Oracle is a company known primarily for developing enterprise software, and they built this Raspberry Pi cluster to gain some publicity for their new Oracle Autonomous Linux distribution. In this case, the Raspberry Pis are running Oracle Autonomous Linux and Java. Those are being network booted through an Oracle Supermicro 1U Xeon server. A visualization of each Raspberry Pi node in the cluster is displayed on nine LCD screens, which are connected to a separate x86 computer.
The budget is, of course, pretty high for this build — roughly $40,000. Getting 1,060 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ boards running simultaneously is also tricky. They’re stored in a server rack, with 21 Raspberry Pis per custom 3D-printed 2U rack. While PoE (Power Over Ethernet) is possible, they instead chose to use USB cables for power. A series of Ubiquiti UniFi 48-port switches are used for network connectivity. It’s debatable whether there is anything practical about a Raspberry Pi cluster, as dividing processing tasks between multiple computers over a network poses a number of problems, but that wasn’t the goal here. Oracle’s motivation was just to build something cool, and they have certainly achieved that.
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Author: Cameron Coward