N2/+ clusterboard & modules

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N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by czajtown »

I’d love to see a clusterboard like this for N2/+ https://pine64.com/product-category/com ... 46c16e2e66. I know we can assemble our own cluster manually, but having a single baseboard with single power/network interface and a high speed backplane is just awesome, and super popular with the pine64 crowd. Turingpi does it for rasp pi https://turingpi.com/. But I’d rather have it with odroid N2/+. With so many people building and showing off odriod clusters, it seems like there’s huge demand already. Let’s do it!

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by rooted »

I just recently commented on this saying an odroid "compute module" would be a nice addition.

Not just for clusters but for companies which base products on hardkernel devices, I can see all kinds of interesting carrier boards being developed by third parties and hardkernel as well.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mad_ady »

I think it's a cat and mouse game. Hardkernel is reluctant to do it until there is enough demand. The ones building stuff off HK boards may be reluctant because HK may not be able to supply a specific board for a long time.
Having a standard form factor and connector would help, however those modules lack space for heatsinks, so there may be problems stacking too many in the same space...
I'm glad I'm not in their shoes, having to consider everything...

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by czajtown »

Makes sense - that explains why pine64 has a few of their offerings designated LTS (long term support/supply). Takes some of the hesitancy out of the picture for the various parties involved.

I’m most interested in an ARM OpenCL compute cluster, so yeah, heatsinks would be a concern. Odroid has ready OpenCL driver support; their ARM competition largely does not. So if they figure out the heatsinks, an Odroid compute clusterboard would completely dominate over other devices at its scale on OpenCL support alone.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by hominoid »

I like the module/cluster-board approach for some uses but imo they seem to end up being a compromise over time, as all the technology evolves. For small clusters they work well but can be less effective for large clusters imo. Cooling always seems to be an issue and the density is never great. I still think the MC1 and N2 approach of the integrated interlocking heatsink is the best for clusters. It provides excellent cooling and is the highest density I've seen for non-commercial sbc implementations. Rack Mount MC1 cluster, 16 nodes 128 cores you can run hard. A simple bracket and the same approach can be used for the N2+.
mc1_16nodes_128cores.png
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by fvolk »

Looking at this Turing Pi 2 board, I wonder, does this help with shared/local storage?
In theory, for my C4 cluster some small&cheap microSD cards would be enough to boot diskless. However, 1Gbit network is not enough for NFS roofs files AND docker images AND application traffic. So fast (=expensive) microSD cards are for local docker images storage, to reduce network traffic and latency.

Would a backplane design help with that and enable a fast centralized storage for all nodes?

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by hominoid »

The web site doesn't say how the Turing Pi 2 12Gbps backplane is going to be used or how the sata is interfaced so one can only speculate. They haven't even delivered the Turing Pi 1 yet, which only supports CMS3+ modules. Even when the Turning Pi 2 is available, the CMS4 soc is already ready kind of dated from a performance point of view and it only supports four modules, is that 16 cores?? And, what's the total cost? The unreleased Turing PI 1 is $189 just for the base board, then add 7 CMS3+ modules. Two N2+ 4GB for $158 would crush them in most/all workloads for less then the price of the base board. Same thing goes for the Pine64 Cluster Board. The Turing Pi 2 with only 4 modules, for an unknown price in an unknown time frame, will likely fall victim as well imo. It all comes down to the use and needed/perceived convenience factor. For practical use and serious workloads there are better and less expensive options imo.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by venkatbo »

... Maybe its time for another look at a miniATX 3 node (minimal for HA) cluster board like the: If the cluster board can do the usual I/O but also include:
  • WOL,
  • SATA3 ports (RAID1),
  • M2-slot - that can take the same 4-port 2.5GbE adapter used with H2+,
  • Fan,
  • RTC,
  • 24pin ATX power,
  • SODIMM form-factor slots for N2/C4/Jetson/...
  • ...
Maybe the Amlogic A311D2 (8GB addressable RAM) could be explored for cluster-board or the SODIMM SOM, etc...

This could then compete with the Turing Pi or Khadas Vim4... for AI/ML/Virtualization cluster atn the edge...

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by venkatbo »

Looks like another contender appeared: Cluster boards seem to be the rage these days... wonder how everyone of these board builders are dealing with chip supplies...

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

Not sure what are you talking about. These are completely different products.

Turing Pi is a RasPi cluster board, that now accepts Jetsons to actually offer anything impressive.
Khadas Vim 4 is an announced SBC that is not there yet and who knows if and when will it appear. It is not a cluster board by any means. It is relatively flat, but will throttle like crazy without an aluminum brick, no doubt about that.
Now Axzez Interceptor is a Pi4 carrier board. Not a cluster board at all.

Designing a carrier board is relatively easy. Check out MirkoPC. It's open source, you can build it yourself.
Cluster boards are similar, you just need to integrate LAN switch et voila.

I'd totally design a cluster board for Odroid compute modules if there were any.

Also, your wishlist seems to assume all these modules behave like one machine.. you know this isn't the case, right?
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by KiddleStone »

The Nvidia Jetson has big heatsink fitted when in use. See Jeff Geerling Turing Pi V2 preproduction model video on YouTube.

A311D SOM already exist from several companies just sold in different markets. Use Google Chrome, brute force translation, http://www.scensmart.com/gallery/amlogi ... 5tops-npu/

If Mods do not remove the on thread topic link.

Just needs a board adaptor and software. Provided the cluster board adaptor does no cripple the A311D . There are SOM for most recent Amlogic SoC , just sold to high volume.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

I couldn't sleep last night so I was thinking how viable would it be to design XU4 compatible board with nothing. Something like XU4-XXS ;)
I was thinking, a PCB with Exynos 5422, with its pattern of capacitors and xtals, and a uSD card holder. Two connectors to fit it on a mom board, with power, ethernet, uart and reset. No HDMI, USB, GPIO and all that nonsense.
As I was dozing off, I imagined fitting 16 of those on a single host board, that would take care of generating voltages, distributing reset signal, and being a network switch to join them all together.
The board would accept just the power from a 5-18V range, and provide ethernet connectivity. Aside from "alive" LEDs and serial debug headers, nothing else.

Wouldn't that be nice, to have 128 cores on 4x4 inch board? And all that pressed against a respectable chunk of metal, such as my portable cluster.

There are really nice Buck converters such as Vishay's SiC437 that are perfect for this task, with 99% efficiency being nothing unusual, and 8A or 12A capability. Definitely a better idea to make one set of converters than 16.

I think all this may actually be done, except it would take money and resources, and most importatnly time that would probably render the whole project obsolete before reaching any significant milestone.
These SoCs are available in Galaxy S5 phones for $10 these days. Salvaging from a broken XU4 or HC2 would be harder due to epoxy. That is, of course, if Samsung phones don't have it. That could help building a cost effective prototype, but I'd need to befriend someone with BGA soldering skills.

The problems I foresee are: Exynos pinout is not publicly available, i think. And the PCB would require expensive technology, far beyond JLC PCB, lol.
Would be awesome to have XU4 Gerber files and just crop out SoC out of it, but I guess it won't happen. ;)
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by rooted »

I don't see how one small PCB could handle the immense power requirements of 128 cores.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

Assuming 12W per each SoC, plus some more for losses and LAN switch, that yields power close to 200W - that would certainly require quite a special power supply.
I'm not sure which input voltages of Exynos demand the most current (I assume most of them require much less, like < 0.3A), but with development of Buck converters in recent years it should be a piece of cake on a back side of 16 square inches.

I believe the small size and relatively cheap technology of 4 layers may just be feasible for a board without fringes. The fact that Exynos chip houses RAM in itself is a game changer in this regard.

I think I didn't explicitly explain this, because to me it was obvious - yes, one side of the board would expose 16 SoCs and nothing more, just because this way one can cool it with any flat surface. The back would contain power converters, LAN chips and SD card holders.

I don't think dense packing of SoCs makes matters any different in terms of cooling. Total heat is the same, but yet again it's cheaper to cool down one surface dissipating 200W, than breaking it down to 16 separate extrusions and fans.
That's the heat and size comparable to top shelf GPU unit, or Intel Phi.


EDIT: Okay, now I'm seeing problems when browsing schematic of XU4.
Believing pin names of Exynos, it has some 40-50 rows of balls, and 34 columns. Given external dimensions 14x15mm, I suspect the ball pitch is 0.3mm or something like that. So the ball size is what, 0.15mm? Even if I find a lunatic capable of soldering that, the price of PCB would go over the roof.
This justifies 0201 or 01005 capacitors found on XU4, which ought be mounted by pick and place -> price goes over 9000. This perhaps could be avoided, though, but the board would get only larger.

And more importantly, the mysterious PMIC chip (S2MPS11X) is not just a bunch of Buck converters that can be replaced easily. It has a number of IOs with unclear purpose, has RTC built in, and I2C link with two addresses depending on the function. I think it may reconfigure PMIC to change core Vcc and all.

And finally, I though LAN adapter was on Exynos, and a separate phy chip. Maybe it's not that bad, USB3 could be routed out of XU4-XXS, so someone else could design their own carrier board with virtually anything they want.
But then, the price of a 16x XU4 carrier board would go up by another 16 USB-LAN adapters.
Hm, if only there was a possibility of direct networking between computers via USB3...

Oh well, it's been a fun thought experiment nevertheless.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mad_ady »

Hm, if only there was a possibility of direct networking between computers via USB3...
If you had an otg port on one end you could use cdc_ether, but xu4 doesn't come with otg by default.

Also, you may want to forget about xu4 - I don't think samsung will continue to build such an old soc after 2022...

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

I did some reading, and it seems networking via USB3 hub technically could be done on Linux, but with one node as a master, and a completely new driver.
Apparently two computers may maintain serial communication via USB3 - so perhaps piping USB to terminal is all we need after all. :D

I understand why this has not been done - USB3 is fairly limited in terms of physical length, and joining a few computers on one PCB is not usual at all.

But yeah, I don't think Exynos is a good target for such experiment - originally I thought this is a super cool idea due to abundance of old Samsung smartphones.
The main problem with such build is you've got to source these SoCs from somewhere - this is nothing you or I could buy in any shop. Some obsolete NXP or TI SoCs are available on Mouser, for ridiculous prices exceeding whole, superior Odroid units.

New SoCs, and all BGA ICs in general, come with pre-made tin ball array. With moderate skills this is possible to solder by hand, just like cell phone repair shops do. When reusing salvaged chip, reballing is necessary - something I already tried and failed miserably. ;)
With $10 Galaxy S5 cell phones, the project would be extremely cost effective - but deadly difficult to transplant these SoCs. Not to mention all the other identified problems.

1 TFLOPS was the core marketing figure of Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors - still worth $300 used these days. It would take about 10 Exynos chips to beat that result. That's why 16x looked so appealing.
Not to mention Xeon Phi had 300W TDP.

N2+ is a much better base, I agree - @odroid has stated a few times this model will be manufactured for at least a few more years, it is super fast and dissipates much less heat.
I'm starting to believe N2+ based compute module in Pi4 CM factor would be the best thing ever. I would sooo design a ridiculous cluster with that. MirkoPC is a perfect base for desktop use of such module.

Anyway, SoC sourcing is the sole reason why such experiment will likely never take place... unless HK thinks otherwise.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mad_ady »

Apparently two computers may maintain serial communication via USB3 - so perhaps piping USB to terminal is all we need after all.
If you can get serial over usb, then it's easy to run ppp on top (like in the 90's) and presto, you have point to point networking. But I have no idea what sort of cable could link two usb hosts.

If you don't need throughput you could use actual serial ports (either the uart or via gpio) and run ppp on them. Use two ports per board in a ring topology ( -- A -- B -- C -- D -- A), run a simple routing protocol (for 16 boards even RIP would work, but please, don't use RIP!) and you can do without the switch. But total network throughput would not exceed 2G/EDGE/Dial-up speed.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

mad_ady wrote:
Sat Jan 08, 2022 3:42 am
But I have no idea what sort of cable could link two usb hosts.
Apparently the crossover cable. USB 3 has TX and RX differential pairs (hence extra 4 wires + 1 for high frequency magic) that may be crossed pretty much like RS232, or Ethernet had to be for certain applications.
This one has been reported to work.
This cable connects two USB3.0 hosts together. They provide chinish app for that but in Linux, you can use my patch to use it as virtual ethernet card. I managed to achieve speeds between 1-2Gbps. But you can write own driver to transfer any data: you simply write to USB EP0 and read from USB EP0 on the other side.
So there must be something more to this cable, as somehow OS knows there is something plugged in and creates a device file. I think :roll:
But after introducing itself to two parties it probably just crosses two cables and let two computers exchange data freely. Or buffers it to some extent.
And if that is the case, this might work with USB hubs just as well. Just one computer would have to act as a switch for the rest. Fortunately netplan can handle that easily, right? :D

So, yeah, some sort of networking layer should do. PPP looks promising, I wonder how much CPU would that cost to actually do 1-2Gbps :D

I don't like the ring idea, as I think the cluster board should work with any number of compute modules.

What a load of fun, this still looks like a feasible idea to dramatically cut hardware costs.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mad_ady »

Hmm, for the price of that cable I think you can get two (or more) cheaper usb-ethernet adapters (do you really need gigabit?), and hook them up to a cheap 100Mbps switch.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

Ah, but you drifted away into buying premade things, and I'm still trying to conceive a cheaper alternative on the manufacturing level. ;)

I'm not so sure. Traces on PCB are for free. The question is what's inside that cable. Maybe nothing, maybe a bunch of resistors, maybe a MCU.
USB-Ethernet adapters are dominated by Realtek chips, probably for good reasons - but here's the same problem as with SoCs, they don't do retail.

Oh no, now I have to buy that cable for the name of science :D
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

I've recently read the Pi CM4 documentation and now I'd kill for N2+ board in the same format.

Designing carrier boards is dead easy, even RPF delivers KiCad CM4 component model and reference schematic of the official carrier board. Just being mindful about the mystical trace impedance should be enough to make it work first time.

It exposes the usual Pi stuff through its 200 pin interface, but PCIe instead of USB. I just made sure Amlogic has PCIe interface, interchangeable with built in USB3.0 root.
So instead of USB hub one would have to include a USB host chip instead. On the other hand, if someone doesn't care about USB, like I do, may hook up NVMe drive or Google Coral instead. Or a PCIe 1x GPU, why not. Or really fast SATA interface.

BUT CM4 operates off 5V directly, so for compatibility sake, the power supply converters would have to be included on "Odroid N2 CM", which originally is not the most compact solution - it was simply designed with no surface constraints, I guess.

For now I think it is possible to make a reasonably compatible board - surely the GPIO pins won't match RPi functionality 1:1, but let's be honest, who cares. All that people want is to hook up 10 HDDs and download all movies in existence, and play them on 8K TV :lol:

I hated it, but could not stop thinking that CM4 might actually be the best solution for building my panzercluster, but what I really dislike about RasPis is a substantial current draw when idling, and on "shutdown". Not acceptable for a portable device, and N2+ is a clear winner in this regard. Also, N2+ means more computing power in general, and less heat.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

Expanding on the rant above, I see there are currently only two competitors to Pi CM4: Radxa CM3 and Pine64's Soquartz.
Both have 2GHz A55 RK3566, which is... disappointing, to say the least, but I can imagine fanboys going "wow" over the fact 2.0GHz > 1.5GHz.
Even Pine website states it runs very cool under heavy load, so it means it does barely anything ;)

Soquartz also has AI accelerator and apparently the RISC-V 32-bit core, and mandatory Wifi/BT interface that nobody wants :roll:

Radxa CM3 expanded on the original CM4 format by adding the third 100-pin connector with extra GPIO, USB ports and whatnot. But for me, an optional 4-lane LVDS output (muxed with one of MIPI DSI) is an excellent feature. This feature alone makes it a board of choice for converting any crappy netbook into a modern machine.
Both boards have eDP outputs so can be used with contemporary laptop displays.

But performance wise, it seems that original Pi CM4 remains unmatched.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by chewitt »

I'm aware of an A311D based SOM board (from a vendor with a lot of SOM experience that should be publicly launched soon. I'm sure there will be a launch announcement on CNX.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

There are A311D SoMs on Aliexpress already, but cost pretty much the same as N2+, so that's a terrible deal. Especially given virtually no documentation, support or software.
Also those are square boards with castellated edges meant for permanent mounting, which pretty much defeats the purpose to me.
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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by chewitt »

The vendor I'm aware of does proper support (no stranger to SOM products) but they're not consumer items and almost certainly don't have consumer prices.

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Re: N2/+ clusterboard & modules

Post by mctom »

I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out we're discussing the same product. Time will tell. :)
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