12 Amazing Raspberry Pi Cluster Use Cases

You probably already know about the usefulness of Raspberry Pi clusters for learning, experimenting, and creating innovative things. If you've never heard of this, I'll tell you that it's a wise investment that can improve the performance and skills of your local computer system like nothing else.

12 Amazing Raspberry Pi Cluster Use Cases

You probably already know about the usefulness of Raspberry Pi clusters for learning, experimenting, and creating innovative things. If you've never heard of this, I'll tell you that it's a wise investment that can improve the performance and skills of your local computer system like nothing else. 

But why do I need a Raspberry Pi cluster when I can run the same process on a normal desktop/laptop/server? This article presents 12 examples of using Raspberry Pi clusters and explains why you might want clusters for your home lab or business.

Why clusters?

The cluster idea  is not new and has been around for years. Previously, the university created research and development clusters. Today, cluster computing has gained popularity as developers, researchers, and data scientists are exploring new technologies and doing many "tasks" at home rather than in the cloud. Given the abundance of inexpensive single-board computers, this approach can be likened to a "home supercomputer".

Long, resource-intensive projects can lead to disappointing delays in everything from video encoding to 3D rendering, data analysis and analysis, to CI/CD pipelines. All this can confuse even the most intensive working machines. Also, under certain circumstances it makes economic sense  to run resource-intensive tasks locally rather than in the cloud.

Cloud-native technologies

Because of the complexity behind this, many people  misunderstand the concept of  cloud computing. A common misconception is that the cloud is just someone else's computer. Well,  cloud systems are not that simple. This includes many computers that form a cluster connected to a network. If you want to create your own personal cloud system, you will need at least 3 computers. Of course, you can emulate a cloud system using a virtual machine or simply using a cloud provider.

However, there are differences in cloud management and provisioning of bare metal clusters. You run many virtual machines on a single processor and you won't see the same  latency, concurrency and resource utilization issues as you would on a physical cluster.

Another thing is that you have full control over the performance, settings, and features of your bare metal cluster. The principle of teaching cluster computing in hardware is why Los Alamos built the Raspberry Pis cluster.

Why Raspberry Pi?

The answer is simple. By far the Raspberry Pi is the most popular single board computer, well known for its low price tag. The Raspberry Pi community and software ecosystem is huge. The latest Raspberry Pi  offers Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3 and 2, 4 or 8 GB of RAM and lowers energy bills. It is also true that you can build a cluster using Dell or HP servers and older laptops.

You could get better performance and energy efficiency for a dollar, but just imagine how much space it takes. Imagine all the cooling fans running all the time and blowing air into your face. The Raspberry Pi cluster is simple yet compact, portable and very easy to expand.

Raspberry Pi cluster use cases

1. Learn, experiment, improve your skills 

If you're aiming for a high salary in the IT industry and want a slice of the pie, Raspberry Pi Cluster is the best way to learn everything related to servers, networking, distributed systems, and security. Learn Linux using a Raspberry Pi cluster  or learn  to use a MySQL or Postgres database. Learn how to install an Apache server or script BASH, Python and other scripting languages ​​to get these cluster nodes to communicate with each other. Learn programming, resource management in Linux. Learn how to create and manage your own cloud services.

With the Raspberry Pi Cluster you can also  learn Docker, Kubernetes, and Serverless. Or by using concurrent processing software such as OpenMPI to turn the resources of all nodes in the cluster into one supercomputer. Learn how to deploy Kubernetes and containers almost instantly to  do the same when working in a large enterprise. The Raspberry Pi cluster will continue to be updated for years to come due to the vast and exciting ecosystem of Linux and cloud computing.

2. Create a home lab 

You can build your home lab on a Raspberry Pi cluster. If you're a software developer, you can deploy software versions using Docker or Kubernetes, host your own private GitHub system, and quickly compile multiple versions of  software simultaneously using  resources from multiple cluster nodes. The more nodes the Raspberry Pi cluster has, the faster it will perform in a shared resource environment. 

Create a database and web server to properly test your website design results before delivering them to  clients. For example, you can deploy multiple hosting environments with different configurations to make sure your web project can handle older MySQL versions. Alternatively, test the version of the software that will be implemented in your company to see how it works. Simulate multiple users with multiple use cases and track bugs and traffic to ensure the end product remains stable and robust.

3. Self-hosted private cloud 

If you need your own internal private cloud, you need a Raspberry Pi cluster. Suppose a company with hundreds or thousands of employees wants to implement a cloud solution that employees will use for backup, CRM hosting, document storage, file sharing, or distribution of new versions of modified files to a collaborative location. It is important and you should be able to  access  older versions of these files without worrying about privacy issues.

To do this, you do not need to start a "naked metal" beast the size of a refrigerator. Raspberry Pi clusters are cheaper and fit in the corner of the office. You can use it to host your private cloud, version control system, backup system, and more  all in one. The benefit of own private cloud hosting is that you can scale your  hardware in a matter of hours if needed without regulating costs and not relying on third parties to store your personal data.

4. Host your own web server 

If you plan to serve your web pages to people in your area, consider using a server hosted in that area. If you plan to save money, hosting your own web server is much better. A Raspberry Pi cluster can easily be turned into a web server. Mount an external repository of any size and install the LAMP package. Cluster security  at your fingertips. You can use Graphana for visual monitoring, install CPanel for  clients, use QoS to throttle bandwidth, and use user accounts to provide the resources  you deem appropriate.

Best of all, you can offer both shared and dedicated web hosting options on the same cluster. If your customer base has recently grown and you need more resources, you can always install new nodes on your Raspberry Pi cluster with no downtime. That said, even the Raspberry Pi Foundation kept the launchpad for the Raspberry Pi 4  on a Raspberry Pi cluster  that handles huge amounts of traffic.

5. Share NAS and files at work or at home 

There are several ways you can use your Raspberry Pi cluster to share resources with your colleagues or colleagues. Samba is a great tool that allows you to connect any PC on your local network no matter what operating system you are using. You can also host your NAS on a Raspberry Pi cluster and store large files such as presentation videos, software kits, accounting PDFs or backups.

Each person in a company or  family can have their own space in the cluster, and users can be assigned different sizes of shared resources. Clusters also allow computers to  communicate with each other internally. Bandwidth utilization can be configured and monitored  to avoid interfering with data transfers to other users. This means  hundreds of people can use the same Raspberry Pi cluster at the same time. You can store and share files in the office or - using a VPN - from the comfort of your home. 

6. Heavy-duty work 

Some work environments require powerful computing resources. As a programmer, you know that the larger the project, the longer it will take to compile. You can create your  own compile farm and assign all nodes in the Raspberry Pi cluster  to work concurrently in the same job. Alternatively, you can grant tasks to three nodes  and another task to four other nodes. Juggle  resources to your liking. Raspberry Pi clusters can handle heavy loads.

ARM processors are known to do this kind of work well, and the more nodes you add to your Raspberry Pi cluster, the more multi-core resources you will have. And because Raspberry Pi modules are cheap  and small, you can add as many as you like. You can use Docker or Kubernetes to process specific tasks, or you can use parallel processing software to do the same. I can do the same thing in a short amount of  time using a Raspberry Pi cluster, so why spend hours messing up my laptop's processor? 

7. fast media conversion station 

Most photographers, video editors, and 3D artists spend thousands of dollars on a multimedia PC. That's because you can  work and render  on one device. However, with a regular laptop  and a Raspberry Pi cluster for processing, you can start much cheaper. Send huge raw image files to your cluster, batch convert, resize, apply filters and let them do everything in general. It's like converting huge video files much faster than an expensive PC can do.

Renders 3D files  using multiple processors and RAM modules simultaneously. Or do all three at the same time while watching the show on your old laptop. You can receive notifications by email, sound or light when tasks are complete and send the results back to your laptop. The more cluster nodes you use, the more resources are available and the faster the process completes. 

8. Build your own supercomputer 

Accessing parallel computing resources is expensive. If you study and use statistics a lot, you should know that R is not only open source, but also easily customizable using plugins. R, unlike Strata or SPSS, performs statistical calculations faster and for free on large databases. However, R, like any other statistical software, is usually quite resource intensive. The more records there are in the database, the longer it takes for  statistical software to display results.

This is why clusters are recommended for these tasks. Clusters give you access to multiple processors and gigabytes of RAM to complete tasks faster. In fact, access to supercomputers is difficult to obtain, pays for the amount and time of resources required, and sometimes requires queues. With a Raspberry Pi cluster, you can use that money to host your  own supercomputer. Inexpensive, scalable, low  power consumption and low noise. You can perform R calculations locally  for free, and you don't have to  line up to do it. 

9. Minecraft servers and other games  

If you're a gamer and you've already spent most of your money on a decent gaming PC, then you probably can't afford an online server to host your own private world. With a Raspberry Pi cluster, you don't have to spend a lot of money and you can host all your game servers here. Gift the world to your friends  in Minecraft. Fight monsters together in Lineage or hunt each other  in Rust. If your game has a server component, your Raspberry Pi cluster can run  smoothly. 

10. Piping CI/CD  

If you use Ansible a lot and need a version control system to debug your code, you can  easily set up such an environment using a Raspberry Pi cluster. A company with hundreds of users can handle push and pull requests, allowing code to be stored in a closed environment rather than the web where it can go into the wild. If you need to access the server from an IP address that isn't on the whitelist, you can use your company's VPN to  access this code from your home computer.

Install GitLab and give permission to the developer. It doesn't matter if you're developing using Ansible or PHP, or editing a lot of documentation that requires a version control system. A Raspberry Pi cluster can handle all of this simultaneously.

11. I use a Raspberry Pi cluster for home automation. 

In recent years, more and more homes have been automated as microcontrollers and automation equipment have become cheaper. Automating an entire home can cost hundreds of dollars. From street lights to rolling shutters and Wi-Fi sockets. The garage door opens and closes on its own, the doorbell has a video stream, and the baby monitor plays soft music when the baby's scream reaches a certain decibel level. And all of this, in turn, can be  handled by the Raspberry Pi cluster. All these electronics and doors must have a central brain that monitors and controls them.

Turn your Raspberry Pi cluster  into a one-stop automation hub. It can send a Wi-Fi command to an outlet to wake the espresso machine and shut it down in 3 minutes when the coffee downstairs is ready and poured into the cup. Then he can email you  or play your favorite radio station. The TV opens a local news channel, turns on the oven, opens the blinds, and the sensor on the stairs “sense” that you are going to the bathroom. It can control light, water temperature, shower pressure and play music at the same time. The cluster can open the front door, unlock the car, warm the driver's seat and even read the news aloud. Logs, reports, device statistics - all can be generated and notified periodically. 

12. All of the Above 

Yes - because a Raspberry Pi cluster can host and run all of the above on a single computer. Convert your movies while hosting your game servers and cloud. Learning Linux on the same cluster as the NAS allows you to do this without affecting  other operations on the Raspberry Pi cluster. Experiment with the same multi-site computer that stores your backups without  fear of losing them. Work faster and store data securely.