PicoCluster Review (Raspberry Pi 3B+)

Note: this is a post I created in 2018. I got distracted by some other things and forgot to fully update it. I made some further updates when I discovered the issues in 2021. Sorry! This is the second cluster system that I’m exploring this summer. In recent years a lot of commercial microcluster solutions have started popping up. Last post, I reviewed PiRacks. In this post, I will review Picocluster.

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PiRacks Review (Raspberry Pi 3B+)

Another summer, and I’m exploring building yet another cluster. Back in 2014 when I started designing my cluster materials, there weren’t a lot of great options for cases for SBC-based microclusters. So I (and Frank Blackmon, our department tech) designed some for the parallella and the raspberry pi. They were pretty great, and I’ve used them extensively for many clusters that I’ve built in the last four years. I’ve presented some of the cluster designs at SIGCSE back in 2015 and 2016.

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Raspberry Pi Cluster - Image Creation with MPI

I have a few more posts in mind for this summer, but I wanted to create this one while the information was still fresh in my head. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the original Raspberry Pi cluster tutorial created by Dr. Simon Cox at the University of South Hampton no longer seems to exist. This has always been to me the de-facto go-to tutorial for creating Raspberry Pi images.

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Raspberry Pi Cluster NFS

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted! It’s another summer and I am creating yet another cluster. One thing people may not know is back in the summer of 2014 as I anxiously waited for the release of the Parallella I was originally going to use Raspberry Pis in my parallel computing course. Of course the Parallella came out, and so I put my Pis back on the shelf and concentrated on the Parallella for the course.

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NFS working on the Parallella

Phew! After a bit of effort, I was able to add an external hard drive to my parallella cluster, and make it accessible to all the nodes by mounting it on a NFS. I’ve updated the parallella cluster post to include this information. Visit it here to learn how to set up NFS on your parallella cluster too!

Running JtR on our Parallella Beowulf Cluster

In the previous post, we created a Beowulf cluster using N Parallella boards. If you are using my images, the files you need to run the John the Ripper application should already be on them. If you don’t (or if they aren’t), follow this tutorial to set up the files on your cluster and get going. I’ll also walk you through how the code works. I wrote this demo for my parallel computing class, and presented it at the “Budget Beowulfs” special session at SIGCSE 2015.

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Creating a Parallella Cluster

The goal of this tutorial is to create a simple Beowulf cluster using Parallella boards. After completing these instructions, you should have a simple Parallella Cluster with N nodes. In the examples that follow, N=4. However, the tutorial can be used to create clusters of any size N. These instructions are adapted from the raspberry pi cluster instructions provided by Dr. Simon Cox from the University of Southampton. Unlike those instructions, I designed this tutorial to enable students to assemble a working parallella cluster within one hour.

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