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Performance analysis of single board computer clusters

Philip J. Basford, Steven J. Johnston, Colin Perkins, Tony Garnock-Jones, Fung Po Tso, Dimitrios Pezaros, Robert D. Mullins, Eiko Yoneki, Jeremy Singer, and Simon J. Cox

Future Generation Computer Systems, July 2019.

DOI:10.1016/j.future.2019.07.040

The past few years have seen significant developments in Single Board Computer (SBC) hardware capabilities. These advances in SBCs translate directly into improvements in SBC clusters. In 2018 an individual SBC has more than four times the performance of a 64-node SBC cluster from 2013. This increase in performance has been accompanied by increases in energy efficiency (GFLOPS/W) and value for money (GFLOPS/$). We present systematic analysis of these metrics for three different SBC clusters composed of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and Odroid C2 nodes respectively. A 16-node SBC cluster can achieve up to 60 GFLOPS, running at 80 W. We believe that these improvements open new computational opportunities, whether this derives from a decrease in the physical volume required to provide a fixed amount of computation power for a portable cluster; or the amount of compute power that can be installed given a fixed budget in expendable compute scenarios. We also present a new SBC cluster construction form factor named Pi Stack; this has been designed to support edge compute applications rather than the educational use-cases favoured by previous methods. The improvements in SBC cluster performance and construction techniques mean that these SBC clusters are realising their potential as valuable developmental edge compute devices rather than just educational curiosities.

Available online 22 July 2019; final version January 2020.

Download: basford2019performance.pdf