I am looking for a single board computer to discover the possibility of using them as a computing unit to support my laptop.

I would like to try four or five of those SBCs and use them for scientific computations, and communicate the data to my laptop for visualization via ethernet cable. The platform should be able to run python, c, fortran and latex codes. I would like to have 10GB of free disk space to write data on each one of the SBCs after installations. Memory is typically the bottleneck during the computations. No WIFI, GPIO, HDMI, USB3.0 etc. is needed on SBCs.

I want to start with a budget around $300-$500 and I would like to know if somebody already tried it and could recommend me a SBC brand or specification and share some experience to help me start. The questions in my mind for the moment:

  • which linux distribution to achieve this with minimum ram and disk space
  • is SBCs of today make it reasonable to try this (LPDDRs, CPUs)
  • how to parallelise SBCs,
  • how to design the cooling system etc..

After a survey, I have three options in December 2018: Rock64, omega2, parallella but I am not sure if any of these are good for my project or if I am missing something…

I hope this question helps many others who wants to start this.

Thanks for your help!

  • I've got some experience with trying to deal with coprocessors thanks to some robotics work. In general, I'd recommend avoiding doing so unless you have some specific reason for doing so (e.g. lack of computation power, simulating a production environment, education, etc.) Why in specific do you want to have these coprocessors—and, moreover, why do you want a cluster of SBCs instead of a single more powerful server? In particular, if memory is the bottleneck, server grade gear sounds like the right hardware, not multiple SBCs.
    – JMY1000
    Dec 15 '18 at 8:10

As you mention that memory is a bottleneck in your computations I would imagine that the rock64 is the best solution with 4gb of memory.
If you want to make a cluster of these you will have to do some work creating a frame, compact power supply and integrate a network switch.

If you want a small high performance server with a lot of memory to do computations on I'd go with a single intel NUC.

But if you are looking for a cheap and simple way to get into cluster computing and experimentation I'd advice looking into a raspberry pi combined with the cluster hat.

This set up would consist of the following:

I have no experience with this set up yet but am planning to buy it at the end of this month so I have done my research.

The good bits:

  • Runs on a number of operating systems (raspbian linux is most common) and has a large community.
  • It's a palm sized 5 node cluster.
  • Everything powers from a single 2.5A USB power supply.
  • USB based networking and addressing integrated.
  • The Raspberry Pi 3 b+ has wireless connectivity build in (connect to your existing network or set up as access point for your cluster)
  • possibility to upgrade to pi zero W's to add wireless networking between nodes or to other networks.
  • No need to worry about cooling too much.
  • Bluetooth. (Everything's better with Bluetooth)

The down sides:

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