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Posts Tagged ‘cluster’

ODROID-MC1 Quad Board Cluster Launched for $220

November 9th, 2017 17 comments

Hardkernel teased us with ODROID HC1 Home Cloud server, and ODROID MC1 cluster last August with both solutions based on a cost down version of ODROID-XU4 board powered by Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core Cortex-A15/A7 processor. ODROID-HC1 Home Cloud server was launched shortly after in September for $49.

It took a little longer than expected for the cluster to launch, but ODROID-MC1 (My Cluster One) is finally here with four ODROID-XU4S boards, and a metal case with a cooling fan. The solution is sold for 264,000 Wons in South Korea, and $220 to the rest of the world.

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ODROID-MC1 cluster specifications:

  • Four ODROID-XU4S boards with
    • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5422 quad core ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0GHz quad core ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz with Mali-T628 MP6 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0 / 2.0 / 1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile
    • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP
    • Network Connectivity – 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (via Realtek RTL8153 USB 3.0 to Ethernet bridge)
    • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
    • Misc – Power LED, OS status LED, Ethernet LEDs, UART for serial console, RTC backup battery connector
    • Power Supply – 5V/4A via 5.5/2.1mm DC jack; Samsung S2MPS11 PMIC, Onsemi NCP380 USB load switch and TI TPS25925 over-voltage, over-current protection IC
  • Dimensions – ~ 112 x 93 x 72 mm

ODROID-XU4S is software compatible with ODROID-XU4 board, so you could just use the Ubuntu images (Linux 4.9 or Linux 4.14), and instructions from the XU4 Wiki, but to make things easier,  they’ve provided several tutorials specific to the cluster use case:

Note that the cluster is not sold with accessories by default, so you’ll need to make sure you also get a Gigabit switch with at least 5 ports,  five Ethernet cables, four micro SD cards (8GB or greater), and four 5V/4A power supplies (or other 80W+ power supply arrangement as shown below).

Pine64 SoPine Cluster Board Takes up to Seven SOPINE A64 Systems-on-Module

August 16th, 2017 17 comments

Pine64 launched SOPINE A64 system-on-module based on Allwinner A64 processor back in January, with such module normally being found in low volume products where companies do not want to spent too many resources developing complex multiple layers boards with CPU and RAM, and instead focus on developing a simpler baseboard and custom software for their product. Pine64 made something else with SOPINE A64 modules:  a cluster board.

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I don’t have the full details yet, but “PINE64 SoPine Cluster Board” comes with 7 SO-DIMM slot designed to take SOPINE64 modules with the board providing a micro USB OTG port, a USB host port, and Ethernet transceiver for each SoM, which are connected to a Gigabit Ethernet switch (initially Marvell 88E6185, but they appear to have now switched to a Realtek part), and accessible via a single Gigabit Ethernet port.

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Power can be provided by a 5V/10A power supply connected to a power barrel, or via the ATX connector.I also understand the board is based on mini-ITX form factor (170×170 mm), so you’d be able easily find a case for it.

The board and software are still being developed, and it’s unclear when/if it will launch publicly.

Hardkernel to Launch Stackable $49 ODROID-HC1 Home Cloud & $200 ODROID-MC1 Cluster Solutions

August 10th, 2017 59 comments

Hardkernel ODROID-XU4 board is a powerful – yet inexpensive – ARM board based on Exynos 5422 octa-core processor that comes with 2GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and a USB 3.0 interface which makes it suitable for networked storage applications. But the company found out that many of their users had troubles because of bad USB cables, and/or poorly designed & badly supported USB to SATA bridge chipsets. So they started to work on a new board called ODROID-HC1 (HC = Home Cloud) based on ODROID-XU4 design to provide a solution that’s both easier to ease and cheaper, and also includes a metal case and space for 2.5″ drives.

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They basically remove all unneeded features from ODROID-XU4 such as HDMI, eMMC connector, USB 3.0 hub, power button, slide switch, etc… The specifications for ODROID-HC1 kit with ODROID-XU4S board should look like:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5422 quad core ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0GHz quad core ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz with Mali-T628 MP6 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0 / 2.0 / 1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP
  • Storage – Micro SD slot up to 64GB + SATA interface via JMicron JMS578 USB 3.0 to SATA bridge chipset
  • Network Connectivity – 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (via USB 3.0)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Debugging – Serial console header
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via power barrel
    • 12V unpopulated header for future 3.5″ designs [Update: ODROID-HC2 is in the works, to be released in November 2017]
    • “Backup” header for battery for RTC
  • Dimensions & weight – TBD

Exynos 5422 SoC comes with two USB 3.0 interfaces and one USB 2.0 interface, and since USB 3.0 interfaces are used for Ethernet and SATA, that’s why they only exposed a USB 2.0 port externally. The metal frame supports 2.5″ SATA HDD or HDD up to 15 mm thick, and it also used as a heatsink for the processor. The company tested various storage devices including  Seagate Barracuda 2 TB/5 TB HDDs, Samsung 500 GB HDD and 256 GB SSD, Western Digital 500 GB and 1 TB HDD, HGST 1TB HDD with UAS and S.M.A.R.T. function.

The fun part is that you can easily stack several ODROID-HC1 kits on top of each other, and you could use Ceph filesystem (Ceph FS), if you want the stacked boards to show as one logical volume [Update: This may not work well due to lack of RAM and 32-bit processor, see comments’ section]. The price is not too bad either, as ODROID-HC1 is slated to launch on August 21st for $49 + shipping with the board and metal frame.

But the company did not stop there, as they found out it was rather time-consuming to setup a 200 ODROID-XU4 cluster in order to test Linux kernel 4.9 stability, and also designed a ODROID-MC1 (MC = My Cluster) cluster with 4 boards, a metal frame and a large USB powered heatsink.

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The solution is based on the same ODROID-XU4S boards, minus the SATA parts. It’s also stackable, so building that 200 board cluster should be much easier and faster to do. The solution is expected to start selling for $200 around the middle of September, and on the software side some forum members are working on Docker-Swarm. Hardkernel is also interested in sending samples to people who have cluster computing experience.

Thanks to Nobe for the tip.

NanoPi NEO 2 Board, NanoHats, and BakeBit Starter Kit Review – Part 1: Hardware Overview & Assembly

March 26th, 2017 28 comments

NanoPi NEO 2 development board is an update of NanoPi NEO with a quad core 64-bit Allwinner H5 processor + 512 MB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and an extra audio header, which can be a great little board for headless application since there’s no video output. FriendlyELEC ask me whether I wanted to review to board with some of their NanoHATs add-on boards, and while I asked for NanoHat PCM5102A audio board and NEO Hub which I intended to use with Grove modules from my Wio Link Started Kit, I get a bit more than expected, as the company included sets of NEO 2 boards and accessories, NanoHATs, two serial debug board, and their BakeBit Starter Kit with several Grove modules to play with.

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Since I have so many things to look at in this first post, I’ll just describe the hardware, assemble it, quickly check the paper documentation, and give some of my impressions about the kit I receive.

Let’s start with NanoPi NEO 2. It’s super tiny, as exactly the same forum factor as NanoPi NEO, except for the low profile Ethernet jack.

The bottom side comes with Allwinner H5 processor SoC, and Samsung K4B4G1646E-BYK0 DDR3L memory (512MB), while the top of the board features Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver. The board just has four ports/connectors: a micro SD slot, a micro USB port for power, a USB 2.0 host port, and an RJ45 connector.

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There are also two headers (2x 12 pin + 12x pin) for I/O just like for the first NEO board, as well as an extra 5-pin header for audio on the right of the 4-pin UART header. The audio header is also present on NanoPi NEO v1.3 board, but not the older boards. See pinout table for details.

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Each package with the board also includes a Quick Start Guide describing the board, and explaining how to use the company’ Ubuntu Core + Qt image. As you can see from the photo above, the boards also make great paper weights, but I’m sure you’ll find something more interesting to do with them… 🙂

I also get a heatsink + thermal pads + screws and nuts kit, not included by default. Installation is very easy. First remove the two protective plastic sheets on the blue thermal pad, place it on Allwinner H5 processor, and then add the heatsink on top and secure it with the screws and nuts. Just make sure you orientate properly without covering the IO pins.

I did that for both, and checked possible combinations for those who want to build NanoPi NEO (2) farms. The first combination is to place the boards in opposite direction, and then use some spacers (mine were not suitable) to hold both boards in place as shown here.

The configuration above takes the less space, however, you may want to have all Ethernet ports on the same side, and the low profile Ethernet jack allows for a more compact design compared to what was possible with NanoPi NEO.

This takes about 5 x 4.5 x 4 cm, so if we round that up you could have 1 meter x 1 meter x 4.5 cm deep cluster with 800 NanoPi boards (3,200 cores). You’d just have to find out how to power and cool it down… The 512MB memory might limit use cases for clusters. FriendlyELEC also sells an acrylic case for 8 board clusters.

The main use case for NanoPi NEO (2) board is probably IoT and electronics projects, so I soldered the two headers which are provided with the board (inside the package).

First I thought I made a mistake when I installed the heatsink first, but actually the nuts help keep the headers in place while soldering, so I did not have to use a sponge to push the headers while soldering, as I normally do.


NanoPi NEO 2 boards are now ready. So let’s checkout the two add-on board I got: NanoHAT PCM5102A audio board with Texas Instruments PCM5102A audio stereo DAC,  stereo audio output via RCA connectors, and an IR receiver, as well as NEO Hub (aka NanoHAT Hub) with 12 Grove connectors (I2C, Digital I/O, Analog Inputs, UART)  compatible with Seeed Studio offerings.

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NEO Hub also includes an unpopulated SPI header.

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The NanoHats sit on top of NEO (2) board, and you can still connect the UART to TTL debug board if you need to access the serial console. NanoHat PCM5102A also comes with 2x RCA to 3.5mm female jack to connect headphones or speakers.

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Since NanoHats includes male headers, it’s also possible to stack them.

In some ways, NanoPi NEO (2) and NanoHAT are the more powerful equivalent of Wemos D1 Mini and shields based on ESP8266, and I really like the design of both solutions.

If you already own some Seeed Studio grove modules, you just need the NEO Hub, but Bakebit Starter Kit appears to be a nice way to expereriment with all sorts of sensors, LEDs, and servo.

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There are twelve modules in total: 2 LED modules, an LED bar, on OLED display, a button, a joystick, a buzzer, an ultrasonic sensor, a servo, a potentiometer, a light sensor, and a sound sensors. The kit includes two detailed user manuals: one in good English, one in Chinese.

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The first part explains the features and interface for each module with a Wiki link, and latter on you have some easy projects with source code leveraging the NEO hub and some of the modules.

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You can also access the documentation online.

FriendlyELEC boards may be slightly more expensive than Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi boards, but documentation appears to be clearly a step or two ahead, and they have an ecosystem of modules that’s currently lacking on Orange Pi boards.

Some price info about the kit I’ve received:

  • NanoPi Neo 2 board – $14.99
  • Heatsink set – $2.97
  • NanoHat PCM5102A – $9.99
  • NEO Hub – $12.99 (Not needed if you buy Bakebit Starter Kit)
  • BakeBit Starter Kit – $29.99

You’ll need to add shipping, but it’s normally only a few dollars extra for registered airmail. You’ll find additional accessories by scrolling down on NanoPi Neo 2 page on FriendlyARM store. The next step will be to install an operating system, which will be FriendlyELEC’s Ubuntu Core + Qt image, or Armbian nightly build, in order to do some basic tests and run benchmarks like I did for NanoPi NEO, and following up on that I plan to write an extra post reporting on my experience playing with NanoHat PCM5102A and Bakebit Starter Kit.