The Monster: 12 octa-core NanoPi-Fire3 SBCs for a 96-core cluster computer!

By on July 17, 2018
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Research centers and universities around the world have developed RPi-based cluster computing for research into parallel computing, deep learning, medical research, weather simulations and more. With this in mind, Paul Smith’s project is an impressive cluster computer with open source design: it combines 12 octa-core NanoPi-Fire3 SBCs for a 96-core cluster.

The open source cluster design includes Inkscape code for laser cutter construction. Smith made numerous changes to his earlier clusters intended to increase heat dissipation, improve durability, and reduce space, cost, and power consumption. These include offering two 7W case fans instead of one and moving to a GbE switch. The Bill of Materials ran to just over £543 ($717), with the NanoPi Fire3 boards totaling £383, including shipping. The next biggest shopping item was £62 for microSD cards.

The 75x40mm Fire3 SBC houses a powerful Samsung S5P6818. The SoC features 8x Cortex-A53 cores at up to 1.4GHz and a Mali-400 MP4 GPU, which runs a bit faster than the Raspberry Pi’s VideoCore IV.

Performance would no doubt improve if Smith had used the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, which offers a Gigabit Ethernet port. However, since the B+ port is based on USB 2.0, its Ethernet throughput is only three times faster than the Model B’s 10/100 port instead of about 10 times faster for the Fire3.

Below a short comparative table of NanoPi-Fire3 vs Raspberry Pi 3 Model B:

Model NanoPi-Fire3 Raspberry Pi 3 model B
SoC 8-core ARM A53
S5P6818 @ 1.4GHz
4-core ARM A53
BCM2837 @ 1.2GHz
Memory 1GB DDR3 1GB DDR2
GPU Mali-400 MP4
Broadcom VideoCore IV
Network 1000Mbps 100Mbps
WiFi no 802.11bgn
Bluetooth no 4.1 + BLE
Storage microSD card microSD card
USB spare 1 fitted
1 microUSB
4 fitted
Video Micro HDMI 1.4a, RGB-LCD HDMI, DSI
Camera ports DVP CSI
Audio no 3.5mm
Size 75 x 40mm 85 x 56mm
Power 1.2 → 3.6W
2A max, microUSB
1.2 → 2.1W
2.5A max, microUSB
Launched Q4 2017 Q1 2016
Price (UK) £34.301 £33.59


All you need to know about this project is available at!

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