A Raspberry Pi cloud


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The Raspberry Pi is a small, low-cost ARM-based PC. Instead of using big, heavyweight, x86 servers, could you build an infrastructure cloud using lots and lots of Raspberry Pis? This lightning talk explores the possibility.

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A Raspberry Pi cloud

  1. 1. Raspberry Pi Cloud: a thought experiment Richard Downer Twitter: @FrontierTown GitHub: richardcloudsoft & rdowner Principal Engineer @ Cloudsoft Corporation This presentation is my own work and may not represent the views of my employer
  2. 2. What is a Raspberry Pi? “The Raspberry Pi is a creditcard sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, wordprocessing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.” (http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs)
  3. 3. In more detail • ARM-based SoC with plenty of I/O • 700 MHz ARM11 core • 256 / 512 MB RAM • Low cost - $25 / $35
  4. 4. The thought experiment • Could you build a cloud using a cluster of Raspberry Pis, instead of virtualized PCs? • Is the performance comparable? • Is the cost comparable? • Is it technically possible?
  5. 5. Performance • Amazon EC2 offers “t1.micro” instances EC2 t1.micro Raspberry Pi Processor – normal Undisclosed 700 MHz single core Processor – spiked 2 ECU single core (ECU approx equivalent to 2x 1GHz 2007 era Xeon) 700 MHz single core Memory 0.615 GB 0.5 GB • Conclusion: slightly inferior
  6. 6. Costs • Model B Raspberry Pi is $35 • Scientific researcher built a 32-core cluster using Raspberry Pis for $1967.21
  7. 7. Costs • Dell PowerEdge R520 for $2759 – List price – discounts almost certainly available • Intel® Xeon® E5-2440 – 6-cores @ 2.4GHz • 16GB memory, 500GB hard drive • Compared to the Raspberry Pi cluster: – Same RAM – Equivalent to a 16GB SD card in each Pi – 6x 2.4 GHz = 14.4, versus 32x 0.7 GHz= 22.4
  8. 8. Technical issues • There’s no virtualization, no hypervisor, no PXE boot – just an SD-card based bootloader • How could we provision the user’s required image automatically?
  9. 9. Technical issues • • • • • A “bootstrap” OS Starts on Pi reboot Erases all data on the user partition Clones the OS image from network storage Re-boots into the user’s OS
  10. 10. Summary • Performance – comparable with an EC2 t1.micro • Cost – 32-core cluster comparable with a heavy-duty PC • Technical – some issues but it is feasible
  11. 11. Conclusion • It’s not a completely ridiculous idea! • But this is only a thought experiment… • Not considered: – Physical rack mounting – Network switch port demands – Thermal requirements – Power consumption and distribution – Reliability and lifetime of a Raspberry Pi
  12. 12. References • Raspberry Pi official website: http://www.raspberrypi.org/ • US boffin builds 32-way Raspberry Pi cluster: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/20/32_wa y_raspebrry_pi_cluster/ • Dell PowerEdge R520 http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/poweredger520/fs • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-2440: http://ark.intel.com/products/64612/
  13. 13. Addendum • The University of Glasgow’s Raspberry Pi Project: http://raspberrypicloud.wordpress.com/ (thanks to Matthew Broadbent for bringing this project to my attention)