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Raspberry Pi Cluster

A Raspberry Pi Cluster to test docker based services for .NET Core and Python applications

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As a Software Developer focusing on .NET Core solutions I am keen to explore the impact using container-based deployment could have on our workflow.

Building a cluster has always been on the project list, but I've never been in a position to get it off the ground.
Over the last few weeks the project gods have been working in my favour, however; after discussions at work I was encouraged to explore the benefits of containerisation to see if there's a case to look into it for our team, I was lucky enough to be contacted by Totem to review a construction kit perfectly suited to building custom frames, and Digitspace reached out to offer sponsorship for a project. Time to make this idea a reality!

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My aim is to build put together a small cluster to get started, and to add more nodes in the future. It needs to be small, portable and possible to run standalone.


Nodes

1 x Master Node - Raspberry Pi 4 (4Gb)

2 x Worker Nodes - Raspberry Pi 4 (2Gb)

1 x Worker Node - Asus Tinkerboard (2Gb)

DigitSpace have kindly sponsored the three Raspberry Pi boards, along with SD Cards and heat sinks for each one. Without their input I wouldn't have been able to get this project underway.

Networking

To network the cluster together I will use a Gigabit network switch. It will enable full advantage of the Pi4 and Tinkerboard's Gigabit ethernet ports.

I am acquiring an 8 port PoE switch next week.

Display

The Master Node will run a desktop environment to allow monitoring and programming of the cluster on-board, without needing an extra machine to connect to the cluster. There will be spare ports on the Network switch to allow more normal removing in, but it'll be useful to be able to make local changes when it's running standalone.

Power

To power the Pis and also keep cabling to a minimum I am going to use PoE.

I have ordered some PoE hats for my Pis to handle it.

Frame

The frame will be built from Totem's Maker kit. The beams and brackets allow for great flexibility and mounting. I Have recently reviewed their Mini Lab kit, and have really loved the lab's form factor for working with, so I intend to keep the frame as close to that form factor as I can. At this time of writing I have the screen in place, and I just need to incorporate the switch when I receive it before building the stack to contain the Raspberry Pis.

Software

I am going to look into setting up this device as a Kubernetes cluster running Openfaas. This should enable me to run .NET Core and python applications easily and handle a lot of cluster tasks for me.

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  • Exciting!

    Craig Hissett01/04/2020 at 00:13 0 comments

    Two 2Gb models and a 4Gb model mounted, complete with PoE boards.

    Awaiting PoE splitter for the Tinkerboard.
    May use the 4Gb as the master and to also drive the display.

    Exciting! 

    Next week I will make some Ethernet cables and install the software to the microSD cards. Booooyah!

  • Project Delay: Awaiting parts from Sponsor

    Craig Hissett12/24/2019 at 01:40 0 comments

    I was hoping to have this assembled before Christmas and work on installing software over the Christmas break, however unfortunately it is not to be.

    Following a delay from DigitSpace in shipping out my parts it appears the delivery company used by them isn't reliable, and my package didn't make it to my office before we broke up for the holidays on Friday.

    Unable to track the package I contacted Digitspace a few times trying to find out what was happening only to be told I shouldn't have chosen that particular delivery option on their site as they were known to be problematic at times.

    This somewhat bamboozled me,has they were listed on their site as an option.

    I was also unable to track the package myself, and was told it wasn't possible for digitspace to amend my delivery address to my home address.

    I'm hoping that the package doesn't get lost in the ether between now and 2020 when I'm back to work.

    I am delighted Digital age contact me regarding sponsoring a project but I'm absolutely baffled by the wierd and wonderful ways they operate.

  • First board added

    Craig Hissett12/11/2019 at 21:48 0 comments

    I've settled on a way to add the boards for my cluster; I've added two rails for strengthening on the back of the frame, and the gap between the two is wide enough for the Pi (mounted to it's own small frame) to slot in. I've made the top bar of the Pi frame 1cm wider each side so it rests on these bars, and I'm using an angled bracket on each to allow me to screw it into place.

    Nice and solid, and only takes 1 screw to remove it.

    Bonza.

  • Frame Design

    Craig Hissett12/06/2019 at 11:44 0 comments

    For the frame I was hoping to keep the shape similar to the Totem Mini Lab I have at home.

    Now the switch has been chosen I've had to make some changes to allow it to fit; I've raised the front gap by a centimeter to allow full access to the ports on the switch, extended the back by around 8cm to incorporate the switch's hefty power supply, and will be adding more beams to brace the frame.

    I'm going to cover the gaps either side of the screen with some panels, leaving a small gap to route the ethernet cables through to where the Pi4 boards will be mounted. I'll also make a cutout at the top of the frame for it to be used as a carry handle.

    Regarding mounting I am going to mount them with the ethernet & USB ports facing upwards for easy access. The boards will be mounted to the added bracing area stacked left to right

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