Pine64 ClusterBoard is Now Available for $100 with one Free SOPINE A64 System-on-Module

We’ve previously reported Pine64 had developed “Sopine Clusterboard” for a specific project with support for up to seven SOPINE A64 SoMs powered by Allwinner A64 quad core Cortex A53 processor.

At the time (August 2017), it was unclear whether the company would sell to the solution publicly, but they’ve now gone ahead and launched Pine64 ClusterBoard for $99.99 plus shipping, including one free SOPINE A64 module for a limited time.

PINE64 ClusterBoard specifications:

  • SoM Slots –  7x SO-DIMM slot for SOPINE A64 modules
  • Connectivity
    • 1x Gigabit Ethernet port (RJ45)
    • All SoMs are connected via Gigabit Ethernet using 7x RTL8211E transceivers and RTL8370N network switch (See diagram below)
  • USB – 7x USB 2.0 port, one per SoM
  • Expansion – Headers for each SoM with UART (serial console), I2C, key ADC, GPIOs, SPI, RESET/POWER 5V and GND
  • Misc – RTC, reset button, optional EEPROM connected to RTL8370N
  • Power Supply
    • 5V/15A via power barrel jack
    • ATX connector
    • 2x battery slot for RTC battery backup, and buffer the AXP803 PMICs in deep suspend
  • Dimensions – 170 x 170 mm (mini-ITX form factor)

 

PINE64 ClusterBoard Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

You’ll find software for SOPINE A64 module, as well as the hardware design files (PDF and native) on SOPine Wiki. You’ll also want to purchase extra SOPINE A64 SoMs ($29) and a power supply ($15.99) on Pine64 store to have a complete system.

ClusterBoard v0.9 in mini ITX case with 5 SOPINE A64 modules – Source: Pine64 forums – Click to Enlarge
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Jeroen
2 years ago

Nice!, can they be netbooted without an sd card?

Xalius
Xalius
2 years ago

@Jeroen

Yes, each SOPine module has a SPI NOR Flash that is bootable, so you can install u-boot on there… check out ayufan’s first proof-of-concept implementation here… https://github.com/ayufan-pine64/bootloader-build/releases

Jerry
Jerry
2 years ago

But it still won’t have raspberry’s level of support. A cluster of pi zeros is a decent alternative. Armv6 has better software support too.

Jeroen
2 years ago

A nice.

@Jerry

The A64 has pretty good mainline kernel support by now, and i think the pi’s still have there nic over usb and i guess 100mbit.

ayufan
2 years ago

I run happily on my SoPines swarm cluster over PXE with NFS drivers. Bootloader is in SPI and since you have GbE it works decently well. You can also have local storage for persistent data if you need, but so far this is very interesting 🙂

Grab this bootlader: https://github.com/ayufan-pine64/bootloader-build/releases

And compile this repo (no docs now): https://github.com/ayufan-rock64/cluster-build to have mainline kernel ready for netbooting sopine or rock64

ayufan
2 years ago

The fact is that the GbE is the faster interface on A64.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

Jeroen : i think the pi’s still have there nic over usb and i guess 100mbit. Pi Zeros have no network at all and also aren’t able to netboot (the bootcode for this has only been added to the VC4 in the BCM2387 used currently on RPi 2 and 3). Though RPi Zero can use the OTG port with Ethernet gadget module and is then even ‘faster’ than RPi 3 since with this USB Ethernet mode you slightly exceed Fast Ethernet ‘performance’. So yes, if you love to deal with tons of crappy SD cards and want to implement USB… Read more »

JaXX
2 years ago

I would have never used this as an occasion to even compare RPi’s to other boards. Yes, they are underpowered compared to plenty other ones and lack correct connectivity. But, to their immense credit: They have brought to the world an amazing piece of hardware for a handful of bucks with a broad support and pretty hackable despite having BCM chips, GigE speeds has never been part of their goals, but accessibility for educative purposes has and still is, and they excel in this area. Plus, I’m pretty sure their little board has kicked so well it inspired other to… Read more »

michael
michael
2 years ago

@tkaiser
Try to be fair. As demonstrated a zero-cluster dosn’t require sds for every zero. See :
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=199994, Zeroes are available in volume – at another picepoint than the single one. That said, a SOPINE A64 module gives you 4 a53 cores and more bandwidth – also to another pricepoint.

crashoverride
crashoverride
2 years ago

@tkaiser I am skeptical there will be a new RPi this year. Broadcom is now a Singapore company (that is relocating headquarters to USA). They are also pursuing Qualcomm. I believe this puts RPi in the ironic position that they could not purchase enough volume (MOQ) to warrant another custom silicon part. RPi likely needs to purchase a minimum amount of chip for any product to maintain their pre-existing supply contracts. The Pi-zero was likely a solution to this dilemma. However, it has put RPi in the untenable situation of competing with their own customers (Farnell/Element 13) by cannibalizing sales… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@crashoverride
Well, combining BCM2837 with a 6-port USB hub and Microchip LAN7850 is an option too of course 😉

George
George
2 years ago

hello Why the only use 1Gbs for all out put each module SOM alone can support 1Gbs

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

That’s the result of using the RTL8370N as internal switch IC (supports only 8 x GbE). Replacing this with something with one or two 10GbE links is possible but much more expensive. But of course you can design your own baseboards that do so (and this happens in reality, people use SoPine modules on their own clusterboards). BTW: in real world compute cluster scenarios this ‘1 GbE to the outside’ limitation isn’t that much of an issue anyway. Those workloads do not saturate Gigabit Ethernet constantly while nodes highly benefit from full 940 Mbits/sec peak bandwidth and low GbE latency… Read more »

blu
blu
2 years ago

An RK3399 SO-DIMM would be neat! Would allow for some proper compute-density builds.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@michael That’s interesting! I wasn’t aware that they added USB booting capabilities to the BCM2835 too. And it’s also interesting that this is possible in this topology. So in fact the newer BCM2835/BCM2837 do contain a copy of ThreadX that had to be loaded from an SD card’s FAT partition with earlier SoCs now also in silicon? Now loading the VideoCore’s RTOS from SD card (bootcode.bin and start*.elf) has higher boot priority but in case SD card is missing the VideoCore boots ThreadX from an internal copy stored in the chip. And they added g_ether functionality to ThreadX too since… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@tkaiser Well, after reading through hackaday.io/project/27142-terrible-cluster it seems that’s just a more minimal bootloader (though g_ether capable) contained in the newer BCM2835/BCM2837 since the primary RTOS operating system contained in bootcode.bin and start_cd.elf has still to be loaded through USB, then the main CPU will be fully brought up and then later the secondary CPU core(s) will be booted through network after the VC4 loaded kernel, DT and initramfs from the remote location. And the whole stuff seems to be somewhat unreliable too. Nice to play with but from an educational point of view I fear you learn almost only… Read more »

Jerry
Jerry
2 years ago

@tkaiser
Well, clusters of RPis are an important educational tool. You can program with OpenMPI and other cluster solutions that are popular in the industry since services need to scale now adays.

Also if you buy a big cluster of RPis, it’s headline news on many computer news sites.

Gabriel
Gabriel
2 years ago

@tkaiser
I’m assuming you’re only speculating regarding the next RPi in a couple of weeks. From what I’ve found online, the next one will come in 2019 at the earliest.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

Jerry : Well, clusters of RPis are an important educational tool. While I agree in general that’s not true for Pi Zero since here you almost only deal with the VC4 platform limitations (these things have no network at all). If you play clustering with RPi 3 as it’s done in large scale things might be a bit different but it’s still such a waste of money using these incapable devices for clustering especially if you keep in mind that all these RPi thingies need an Ethernet cable and an own switch port. Rack density is laughably low. But it… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@Gabriel This ‘RPi 4 in 2019’ thing is funny. The mythical Foundation spoke: «”Raspberry Pi One lasted for three years,” Upton explained. “Then we had Raspberry Pi Two that lasted for a year, I think Raspberry Pi Three is more like a three-year product. We may tweak some peripheral bits of it at some point but probably not even that.”» That’s it. Then journalists did some math 🙂 What’s on those Raspberries today is still the same as what BroadCom sold in 2010: the VideoCore IV running a proprietary RTOS. In the beginning there was one old ARM core added… Read more »

Gabriel
Gabriel
2 years ago

@tkaiser
I was curious about the new Pi as I’m interested in getting a new one to act as a media player (with libreelec). After reading that the Pi 4 will not be out soon, I’m now looking at the Pi 3 and the Odroid C2. I know the C2 is better, but the Pi 3 will probably be enough and I’m assuming cheaper (will need to run the numbers).

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@Gabriel LibreELEC and then only on either BCM2837 or S905? Why not saving money, getting more memory bandwidth (necessary for higher video resolutions), better display features and better codec support as well? If Gigabit Ethernet is not a must I would always choose S905X over S905 (and of course I would never choose VideoCore IV for anything graphics related today, it’s a 2011 design showing its age everywhere) BTW and totally unrelated to the media player use case. RPi 3 and ODROID-C2 are the only known Cortex-A53/ARMv8 boards around that miss ARMv8 crypto extensions (AES encryption/decryption 15 times faster —… Read more »

Jerry
Jerry
2 years ago

@tkaiser
Most RPi fans buy RPi no matter if it’s compatible or not. The name is compatible. It’s the brand that matters. There might still be backwards support if Raspbian runs ARMv6 binaries compatible with RPi 1-4. The potential speedups from NEON, ARMv7 or AArch64 are insignificant for most users.

Jerry
Jerry
2 years ago

@tkaiser
Raspberry provides HDMI CEC. It’s not available with open source drivers on many other ARM platforms. The kernel API was just stabilized with little support from vendors. Most pirated video is still 8b color channel H.264. For many it’s time to switch to HEVC and 10b colors only when they’ll upgrade the TVs next time in few years.

Gabriel
Gabriel
2 years ago

@tkaiser
Cost is an important factor. I’d get the C2, but shipping from Korea is quite expensive and prices in Europe are rather high. I remember trying to find another S905X board, but don’t recall finding something at a decent price. I’m currently only playing 1080p/h264, no HDR. Because of that, its price and its availability, the Pi seems the most attractive option. But, as I’ve mentioned, I’d gladly get a S9xx, should I find it at a decent price.

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

Jerry : There might still be backwards support if Raspbian runs ARMv6 binaries compatible with RPi 1-4 And that’s the most funny part. No one is realizing how this backwards compatibility is defined. On the VideoCore IV there’s a main processor and that’s the VC4 itself. There runs also the main operating system having total control over the hardware. It’s a RTOS called ThreadX. RPi users are told it’s just a ‘firmware’ but it’s the OS that controls the platform (just check the issues after kernel updates that also required a fix in the ‘firmware’ later) The ARM core(s) are… Read more »

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
2 years ago

Gabriel : @tkaiser Cost is an important factor. I’d get the C2, but shipping from Korea is quite expensive and prices in Europe are rather high. I remember trying to find another S905X board, but don’t recall finding something at a decent price. I’m currently only playing 1080p/h264, no HDR. Because of that, its price and its availability, the Pi seems the most attractive option. But, as I’ve mentioned, I’d gladly get a S9xx, should I find it at a decent price. Only a moron would buy a Raspberry tart When for £29.99 including p&p you get box, power supply,… Read more »

willy
willy
2 years ago

It’s really cool to see this happen. The boards are far too slow for my build farm unfortunately but I really like to see clusters like this being put in the hands of everyone, because it will encourage developers to start to think parallel again and start to wonder about the cost of sharing. I have certain doubts about the ability of the jack connector to stand 15A without starting to melt to be honnest, so I guess it’s fine if you just have one or two boards and then it’s more convenient than the ATX PSU. I thought there… Read more »

David Frantz
David Frantz
2 years ago

Jerry : But it still won’t have raspberry’s level of support. A cluster of pi zeros is a decent alternative. Armv6 has better software support too. The issue of support is rapidly changing if you are interested in running Linux on these boards. A whole lot of ARM code has gone into ARM support in 4.15 and much more is in line for later kernels. For the Odroid C2 it looks like they are now running a fairly stable kernel for exmaple, it isn’t perfect but they are getting there. Once you have mainline support I could see a proliferation… Read more »

Mike Schinkel
2 years ago

@michael
Where? How much?

Mike Schinkel
2 years ago

@michael
To clarify, I am asking about “Zeroes are available in volume – at another pricepoint than the single one.”

michael
michael
2 years ago

@Mike Schinkel
Pi zero with header : 2-20 units, 9.5 $ (ex Vat, ex postage)
Pi zero with WiFi, header : 2+ units, 13.2 $ (ex Vat, ex postage)
source: https://www.modmypi.com
(free uk delivery on orders over £50 ex.VAT – T&C’s apply)
If you need quatities >500 units contact RasperryPi

Pfsense hardware Barebones
Pfsense hardware Barebones
2 years ago

it just seems moronic to only include USB 2.0 ports on a base carrier board in 2018 when you know everyone and his dog
wants at least USB 3 on anything today if its to become actually a must buy in the home consumer DIY department, hell mini pci-E is the new must have even on £170 mini PC’s that people might actually buy as you can potentially upgrade some of the base components later…

as per GeeekPi Banana Pi R2 BPI-R2 Quad-code ARM Cortex-A7 SATA Interface Development Board
by GeeekPi £86.99 & FREE UK delivery

willy
willy
2 years ago

Pfsense hardware Barebones : it just seems moronic to only include USB 2.0 ports on a base carrier board in 2018 This is a cluster baseboard. The USB here is only used to facilitate manual intervention on the individual boards (eg: mounting a local FS or simple operations like this). There’s no need for performance here. You cannot compare this to your mini-PCs where the USB’s goal is to plug anything from external drives to keyboard or VGA adapters. In fact I think that one cool thing on this board could have been to have one OTG port for each… Read more »

Rogan Dawes
Rogan Dawes
2 years ago

willy : It’s really cool to see this happen. The boards are far too slow for my build farm unfortunately but I really like to see clusters like this being put in the hands of everyone, because it will encourage developers to start to think parallel again and start to wonder about the cost of sharing. I have certain doubts about the ability of the jack connector to stand 15A without starting to melt to be honnest, so I guess it’s fine if you just have one or two boards and then it’s more convenient than the ATX PSU. I… Read more »

kcg
kcg
2 years ago

Not bad at all. So in full configuration it does have 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14GB of RAM. Not bad, but still a cluster of machines. I’d rather wait and see once SocioNext SC2A11 24-core board gets to market. This supports 24 core CPU already and RAM up to 64GB *ECC*. Yes, the core is slight slower but RAM is usable since it’s not divided into 2GB islands… Let’s see.
Anyway, thumbs up to creators for this board and its sweet low price…

theguyuk
theguyuk
2 years ago

@kcg
Math like these 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G are pointless. In the real world you need software which use each core separate, if the SoC design allows individual core use. Then does the SoC design handle chip heat by shuting cores off, or slowing them down.
People may use those Maths but it is not a real world model based on the SoC design or features..

blu
blu
2 years ago

theguyuk : @kcg Math like these 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G are pointless. In the real world you need software which use each core separate, if the SoC design allows individual core use. Then does the SoC design handle chip heat by shuting cores off, or slowing them down. People may use those Maths but it is not a real world model based on the SoC design or features.. /scratches head over this post The software you’re referring to exists, and the ability of the SoC to sustain performance of all their cores is there, so I’m… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

@blu On Allwinner SoCs we have total control over all thermal and performance aspects. We can use any DVFS/cpufreq settings we want since on this platform no so called ‘firmware’ controls the ARM core behaviour but we ourselves with our settings and our software. So we’re not subject to a firmware cheating on us like it’s the case with all RPi or Amlogic devices but can use optimal settings and this even on a ‘per node’ basis. We all know that those cheap SoCs vary a lot, some of them run fine at pretty high clockspeeds, some not. So default… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

Even if A64 isn’t the best choice for HPC it’s a great choice from an educational point of view since it’s really easy to learn with such a cluster attempt what’s important. Not talking about the ‘usual’ stuff here (like optimized MPI libs, compiler version/switches and stuff) but the basics below. A64 due to it’s 40nm process throttles even with light loads (like stress, sysbench) and if really heavy stuff is running (eg. cpuburn-a53 which heavily utilizes NEON) then we’re talking already about throttling down to 600 MHz with a throttling treshold of 80°C on a rather large Pine64 board… Read more »

Pfsense hardware Barebones
Pfsense hardware Barebones
2 years ago

willy : Pfsense hardware Barebones : it just seems moronic to only include USB 2.0 ports on a base carrier board in 2018 This is a cluster baseboard. The USB here is only used to facilitate manual intervention on the individual boards (eg: mounting a local FS or simple operations like this). There’s no need for performance here. You cannot compare this to your mini-PCs where the USB’s goal is to plug anything from external drives to keyboard or VGA adapters. In fact I think that one cool thing on this board could have been to have one OTG port… Read more »

blu
blu
2 years ago

@tkaiser
That’s a good idea for a course right there!

willy
willy
2 years ago

@Pfsense hardware Barebones In fact all you describe here is a bunch of individual boards. You’re really looking for a rack of many independant boards with a unified power supply, not a cluster. The purpose of a cluster is to have to do the least possible work on any individual node. usbnet makes no sense here as it would require interconnection with another device. It could however be useful for the initial setup of the boards. Installing a SATA drive on each board doesn’t make much sense except for booting, which is equally served using a cheap 8GB flash. It… Read more »

theguyuk
theguyuk
2 years ago

@blu The point is Math like these 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G are pointless Just imagine we could change the SoC on the compute modules but keep memory etc the same and we could also mix 64 bit and 32 bit A64, Math 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G S905, Math 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G S905w Math 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G RK3328, Math 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G S812, Math 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G S805, Math 7×4 = 28 cores… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

theguyuk : Just imagine we could change the SoC on the compute modules Pine Inc can. And most probably they will. Maybe you’re able to do the math yourself: RK3399 means not ’28 cores and 14GB’ but ’42 cores and 28GB’. This is all potential customers with specific use cases are interested in (eg. serving dynamic web pages behind a load balancer). But such a big.LITTLE design would also be great for educational purposes to study performance behaviour if you pool all CPU cores or separate the A72 from the A53. But even better: With RK3399 you could use OpenCL… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

theguyuk : Just imagine we could change the SoC on the compute modules but keep memory etc the same Why would we want to keep memory the same? Since we’re clueless or even stupid? The 2GB DRAM used here are a reasonable default with A64 since while this chip is able to address up to 3GB you would need to waste a 4GB module for this (with Allwinner’s H6 it’s the same and in fact that’s what Pine Inc do on the PineH64 board: the 3GB variant has a 4GB LPDDR3 module on it so 1 GB wasted). But when… Read more »

blu
blu
2 years ago

theguyuk : @blu The point is Math like these 7×4 = 28 cores and 7×2 = 14G are pointless The point is that as long as your software is ok with the single-core latency characteristics of an A53, and scales (near) linearly with threads, the metric ‘N cores of a proverbial average A53’, is perfectly reasonable way to say ‘I expect N times the performance’, and low and behold, get that performance at the end of the day. Now, from all accounts (and as thoroughly explained by @tkaiser), A64 cores are well-managed — DVFS yields predictable performance, at minimal airflow… Read more »

theguyuk
theguyuk
2 years ago

@tkaiser
You have made two long and elegant posts there but I see you do not get or have not understood my argument against just adding number of cores together and adding amount of memory together, as a means to grade systems. However your long elegant and detailed posts support my argument point nicely.

Thank you

Tkasier

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 years ago

theguyuk : my argument against just adding number of cores together and adding amount of memory together, as a means to grade systems. You obviously are not able to differentiate between your Android / Desktop world and server/cluster use cases (and I doubt it will change even if @blu takes a third attempt). But this doesn’t matter at all since I simply wanted to outline in which areas working with this specific cluster board and the SoPine modules is worth the efforts from an educational point of view (and that’s what Pine Inc.’s TL Lim always emphasized on when the… Read more »

pitsch
pitsch
2 years ago

What we look at is a docker swarm home lab for the rest of us, ready for exploring various use cases in a safe but experimental environment, where bare metal deployment in a data warehouse is yet too costly and unsafe. Running the same containers at home or in the cloud with an excellent cost-performance ratio could make arm64 clusters replace lower end vps and kvm virtualisation not only because of speculative branching and vm exploits. A qubes os without virtualisation.

barbazoo
2 years ago

R353/R371 – are those 15W resistors on the clusterboard schematics and preloading the ATX power supply? Really?

tllim
tllim
2 years ago

Some ATX power supply needs to sense a load to power up and these 15W resistors are use as dummy load. However, most modern ATX power supply that we tested able to power up without dummy load.

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