The Raspberry Pi is an awesome device for the money, but they aren’t exactly known for their raw computing power. Despite that, users have found some remarkable uses for the single-board computer over the years, running everything from arcade emulators to entire home automation systems.
That said, sometimes you need more power than a single Raspberry Pi can provide. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to make several Raspberry Pi machines work together. This is known as a cluster, and they can be powerful enough to rival some of the world’s best super computers.
1. Homemade 40-node Project
Many of the clusters in this list are big showcase projects created by companies or collectives of developers. But Pi fanatic David Guill embarked on a solo project to make an impressive 40-node Pi cluster with 40 cores, 20GB RAM, 5TB storage and 440GB flash storage.
He also went to the effort of creating several YouTube videos showing how he went about creating this $3000 Pi megacomputer, which ends up looking like a pretty regular tower PC, albeit with a whole lot more cabling.
This project proves that with a little effort and not too much money (considering the power), you can create your very own supercomputer right at home!
2. Oracle’s Raspberry Pi Super Computer
The newest cluster on this list is also one of the more powerful examples. At its 2019 OpenWorld conference, Oracle unveiled a super computer controlled by a Raspberry Pi that it called the Raspberry Pi Super Computer.
This computer uses more than 1,000 Raspberry Pi boards working in tandem. The cluster is somewhat of a stunt to show off Oracle Autonomous Linux, but if you’re looking to get your name out there, building the world’s largest Raspberry Pi cluster is one way to start.
3. Seemore Project
Though it pales in comparison to Oracle’s giant cluster, the Seemore Project is nothing to sneeze at. The project is built around a 256-node Raspberry Pi computer cluster but is more a piece of art than a show of sheer computing power.
The Seemore Project is an animatronic “kinetic sculpture” but an impressive one. Each board articulates its own position based on its own processing load. This basically helps you see the computer think, which is a fascinating thing.
4. The Beast
The Beast began life as a demo for the resin.io project, now known as Balena. The second iteration of The Beast is built on 144 individual Raspberry Pi boards.
Just big enough for a forklift to easily lift, the Beast is a great show of what a few people and an idea can accomplish.
The Iridis-Pi cluster was first conceived in 2013. That people are still talking about it years later helps to show how important the project was.
This cluster consisted of 64 Raspberry Pi model B units with just 256MB RAM each and a 16 GB card for storage. Still, the magic of distributed computing helped this cluster show its power.
6. Official Raspberry Pi Website
Another very recent example of just how powerful the Raspberry Pi can be is the project’s own website. As tweeted by Mythic Beasts, the project consists of 72 cores, 72 GB of RAM, and consumes less than 100 W in a half-unit rack server space for less than $1,000.
This powers a website that has handled record traffic. If you need proof that the Raspberry Pi can be used in a viable commercial way, this is it.
Do you want to get started with your own Raspberry Pi cluster? You don’t need a degree in computer science or engineering in order to make that happen thanks to the PicoCluster project
For less than $500, you can get a 10-unit cluster pre-built and ready to go. This is a fun way to play around with this type of computing without a major time investment.
If you have more time than disposable income and want to build a Raspberry Pi cluster, check out the OctaPi project. This gives you a great overview of how to build your own cluster from scratch.
Of course, you’ll need all the parts, but if you’ already have a few Raspberry Pi models lying around, this is a great way to get started. From here, you can always spend money to add units if you need to.
Of course, you may not need a Raspberry Pi cluster of your own. Cool as they may be, they aren’t suited to everything, and in some cases, all the power in the world isn’t exactly worth the effort. Few people have a reason for a Raspberry Pi cluster in their own home.
What if you just happen to have a single Raspberry Pi and don’t want to buy another one? There is still plenty you can do with just the one. If you’re not sure, take a look at our list of IoT projects you can build with a Raspberry Pi.