At Oracle OpenWorld 2019, tucked away in the Oracle Code One area, the company had something unique: a 1060 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ cluster it calls the Raspberry Pi Supercomputer. We had a chance to check this cluster out at the show and it was extremely cool integrating inexpensive components and even 3D printed carriers along with the network booting the Oracle Autonomous Linux distribution to create something bigger.
Oracle Raspberry Pi Supercomputer
One may be wondering why there are 1060 Raspberry Pi 3B+ nodes, not an even 1024. We were told at the show that it was based on the physical dimensions of the solution along with having spares “just in case.” We asked why a Raspberry Pi 3B+ cluster instead of virtualizing an existing Arm server. We did AoA Analysis with the Marvell ThunderX2 versus 190 Raspberry Pi 4s recently. The answer was that a big cluster is cool, and cool it is.
Taking a look at the architecture, each 2U rack of 21 Raspberry Pi 3B+ nodes uses a 3D printed carrier specifically designed with printing speed in mind. We were told it took about a day just to unbox all 1060 nodes.
These are then connected into Ubiquiti UniFi 48 port switches. Each switch is uplinked via SFP+ 10GbE.
Power is not provided via PoE. That helps greatly with cables, but we were told that in this installation the heat and power penalty along with the PoE hat cost was too much. Instead, the solution uses an array of USB power supplies.
There is a central storage server (Oracle re-branded Supermicro 1U Xeon server) that is network booting all of the systems.
The systems are running Oracle Autonomous Linux as well as Java, as one would expect from an Oracle demo, but may not expect on a cluster of this size.
Oracle also has a visualization solution. The nine display visualization wall can be seen here with just under 500 of the nodes booted. This is also running off of a x86 tower PC behind the displays.
Perhaps the Oracle Raspberry Pi Supercomputer is not going to make it to the November Top500 list but it teaches a number of fundamental cluster principles. This is a super cool machine that the company is showing off at Oracle OpenWorld 2019 as part of the company’s developer relations programs. Even tucked away behind an arcade, it is still garnering a lot of foot traffic. The concept of doing it because it is “cool” is certainly paying off.