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The Raspberry Pi Super Computer at Java One 2022

by Chris Bensen

If you prefer you can read this blog post on GitHub here.

The Raspberry Pi Super Computer was originally built for Oracle Open World in October 2019. There are 1050 Raspberry Pi 3b+ in four server racks configured in a big square box reminiscent of a British police box popularized in a certain BBC TV series. Fast forward to today, and The Raspberry Pi Super Computer (Pi Cluster) was sent to e-waste, some parts stripped off it, and sat dormant for two years until May of this year, when it found its way to my garage for a complete overhaul.

Raspberry Pi Super Computer at Open World 2019

For a temporal history of how 1050 Raspberry Pi came to be, you can read A Temporal History of The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster.

It begins with Gerald Venzl at Oracle Switzerland bringing the 12-node cluster to my attention, then we brainstormed a big cluster with Stephen Chin. Learn how the Pi Cluster went to e-waste during COVID lockdowns and the California fires and how Eric Sedlar rescued it, eventually storing it at Oracle Labs. If you find that too long, watch the original build video of The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster that we know of, this Building the world’s largest Raspberry Pi cluster by Gerald Venzl, and this video of the Big Pi Cluster In My Garage — Part I.

And by the way, if you’re reading this, there’s a high likelihood that you’d ‘be a great Luminary. What’s a Luminary? It’s our recently launched developer group that connects developers like you to exclusive technical content, free swag, and a community to help you build something as cool as this cluster, become a Luminary today.


When CloudWorld was announced we immediately proposed to resurrect The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Super Computer (that we know of). Who doesn’t like a good resurrection story? The proposals went something like this:

1. Donate it to the Computer History Museum as a non-functional art piece for Pi-Day.
2. Raspberry Pi’s are valuable now. Raffle off a piece of the Pi to win a free Raspberry Pi 3B+ from one of the World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Clusters.
3. We have one opportunity to make history. We fix it for CloudWorld, add fans so it doesn’t overheat, and run it as an “on prem” and “edge” device showing off tech that is being built in the labs. We’ll include GraalPython, Java and Oracle Linux 9 running on every device on the Pi Cluster. It’s all connected to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) through Site-to-Site (scroll to the bottom for directions on this) VPN for on prem and via micro-services, compute instances, Autonomous Database, Services Gateway, and Load Balancer. AR visualizations would be ideal, and we could run something cool on it — like when we ran SETI@home on the Raspberry Pi Mini Super Computer, an 84-Pi Cluster. I came up with the idea to set up a service so anyone in the world could send code to the cluster to run a workload, as we show off our Digital Twin AR/VR services and create blogs and videos to inspire developers and students. We can show people why developers and students are having a lot of fun learning and using Oracle’s Free Tier. Plus, we can get a Guinness Book world record.

We choose option three and the search for a new lab began. I spoke with the leadership of various product teams mentioned above, as well as leaders in the Raspberry Pi community like Jeff Geerling and Eben Upton, and laid out a plan. I can’t tell you about the entire plan because we’ve just set the foundation for it, but there’s a much more to come. This is just the story of getting the Pi Cluster to DevNucleus at CloudWorld and a brief mention of what happens after. It turns out a Guinness Book adjudication is really expensive!

The first step was to identify a budget and an estimate of the work to see if it was feasible. We knew we needed:

1. Fans. Lots of fans.
2. To replace any parts missing.
3. To test everything out.
4. To write new software.

Every Pi network boots. In 2019 I had Oracle Linux 7 running on the entire cluster, but did it still work? Did we have all the source code, MAC addresses, and everything needed to do it again?

The second step was to get a place to work on the Pi Cluster. Try finding a place with double doors, close to a freight elevator, with enough power and space to work on it, and a network that isn’t locked down tight — not easy! I looked at Oracle facilities around the world. The logistics of working on something like this remotely and all the physical work that would have to be put into it meant anywhere in the world would work only if certain requirements were met. I’d have to travel there, set everything up, and have a dozen people to help. We’d set it up for remote access but someone would have to be available in person when things didn’t work right. After a nice lunch with my amazing wife, we decided our garage worked the best, and that’s where #BigPiClusterInMyGarage started.

Adding Fans — Cooling the Raspberry Pi

Once it was delivered, I went to work ensuring our budget was accurate, then rectifying and testing things while ordering replacement parts (mostly fans). Lots of fans: 250 new fans to be exact. The cluster ended up with 257 fans and that isn’t counting the fans that are in each of the switches, the server, or the power supplies. This required that I disassemble the entire cluster and reassemble it. Not every bolt was removed, but all 21 Pi 2U banks were disassembled, every 5th Pi removed and replaced, which meant 250 new Pi caddies with brackets for fans had to be printed. You can learn about that here. Victor Agreda used his newly purchased Ultimaker S5 to print a few dozen of the fan version of the caddies. The fans all needed power, and many thanks to Eli Schilling for creating many of the wiring harnesses. In addition, we added some easter eggs. I know it isn’t much of an easter egg if I tell the world about it, but I’ll explain it in more detail in the Warble section below (because it’s too cool to not say anything). I have a few videos documenting some of the work that can be found in A Temporal History of The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster.

Operating System — The Smartest Operating System Around

I think a lot of us underestimate the value of a good operating system when building out infrastructure and hardware, and Oracle Linux is top notch. I go into more detail about the operating system in A Temporal History of The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster (and I have some other stuff I’m working on so you can set up network booting Pi at home). Because we had all that work to build upon, we had to upgrade from Oracle Linux 7 to Oracle Linux 9. I’ll tell you a secret: it wasn’t that simple. Nevertheless, the Oracle Linux team has been amazing to work with and really deserves all the credit for setting up the operating system for the Pi Cluster. Go check out Oracle Linux 9, it’s worth using or upgrading to. There were a few hiccups, such as the added layer of security which meant the root account no longer had SSH access by default.

It’s worth mentioning here how we boot the Pi. Every Pi in the cluster is network booting off a single, read-only NFS mount on the server, and we added a systemd service to run a bash script whenever the server or Pi boots up. This makes configuring what we run almost effortless.

Software and Cloud Services — GraalVM is Fast Running on Client or in the Cloud

All the software is open source and can be found here in our DevRel GitHub repository. There are some things coming from the labs and aren’t available even as a tech preview (I tried, they just weren’t ready) so those aren’t included. Be warned, most of that code was written quickly. What you find might not make a whole lot of sense, so let me explain.

First, there’s the software on the cluster. The server runs a Docker container comprised of GraalPython on top of GraalVM. That Dockerfile is undergoing continuous improvement so I don’t recommend copying it just yet. I’ve provided some bug reports, but as soon as the Graal environment variables and CTRL+C work (and maybe a new image for GraalPython is created) you’ll want to dive right in. Meanwhile, know that this is one way of doing it. I’ve seen about an 8x increase in performance when running pure Python code under GraalVM. That’s pretty impressive!

Every device on the cluster runs a web service. The server broadcasts a UDP message with its IP address and port for any device to listen to and communicates with the server for auto discovery. This is new from previous years where the server’s IP address was put into an environment variable. The IP address doesn’t change so we could hard code it, but there were two issues: Anyone working on this needs to run a test system with their desktop and a simulation of a Pi or a couple of Pis on their desk, and the environment variables are lost once you sudo. This actually solves a lot of issues! Once a Pi boots up it runs its web server, listens for the UDP message, registers its IP address and MAC address with the server, and listens for work. At intervals, the server will send a ping to each Pi as a health check to make sure they should be in the list of available Pi.

Every five seconds each Pi sends all its data (CPU, memory, temperature, etc.) to a REST endpoint on an Autonomous Database via the native ORDS support. The documenation can be found here. I put some code in where if the Pi fail to send their data, it waits a little longer the next time, scaling up to 60 seconds. It turns out to be a mountain of data which Autonomous Database handles effortlessly. I tried a few other databases that shall not be named and let’s just say they couldn’t handle it, sometimes resulting in delays greater than five seconds.

Digital Twin with AR/VR — Visualize your Data

Raspberry Pi Super Computer Rendering

I created a fairly detailed 3D model of the Pi Cluster that can be found here and opened in your favorite 3D program. Our AR/VR and cloud experts Wojciech Pluta, Victor Martin, Bogdan Farca and Stuart Coggins went to work building some amazing AR and VR experiences. They tuned databases, wrote APEX apps, and ran for streaming. They leveraged a Kubernettes cluster called OCI OKE so the 3D experiences can scale without falling over, which means anyone can put a Digital Twin of the Pi Cluster in their living room. We have iPads for AR and printed QR codes so the iPad can track the cluster with millimeter accuracy, enabling attendees to view the goings-on of the cluster interactively. The team also built a Meta VR version, the details of which will be revealed soon. There wasn’t enough power to run the entire cluster in my garage so we’ll be integrating this and testing it before the doors open at CloudWorld. It may work, it may fall over. Whatever happens, it will be a good story! I’ll add a link here when we have something written on AR/VR Digital Twin.

OCI Services — At the Center of Every Project is Cloud Infrastructure

In my garage, the Pi Cluster is setup as an “on prem” server. I created an isolated subnet on my Ubiquity Dream Machine Pro, configured a site-to-site VPN to OCI using a Bastion, and used a local jump box that has two network interfaces (one for the Pi Cluster subnet and one for the Pi Cluster). Thus, the Pi Cluster appears to the outside world as one IP address. Show up, plug in network power, and you’re good. I wish setup were that easy and I didn’t have to test everything — making sure cables didn’t bounce out of position — but let’s just say it’s that easy because it sounds more fun.

We won’t have control of the network at CloudWorld, so the Pi Cluster is an “edge device.” It uses cloud services such as Services Gateway, Load Balancer, and Domain Management. Yes, we have a domain. I’ll get to that in the next section.

The network looks like this:

Pi Cluster Demonstration Network Diagram

If you have any questions about this head over to Oracle’s public Slack channel for developers. Ask any question you want. How to set it up, what services to use. You’ll find your answers there!

IoT — Specific Lightweight Tasks with Small Inexpensive Microcontrollers

We also have a pair of Arduinos running on the cluster. The first Arduino is an Arduino Mega with an Ethernet HAT. The original code can be found here. It runs a web service and turns on two solenoids for remote access to the physical reset and power buttons on the server. I’ve changed the software a bit compared to the repository and didn’t publish yet, so I left this older version up. The version I haven’t published registers itself and waits for a simple startup command when a developer SSHs into the Bastion.

The second Arduino is the same hardware but runs a REST server listening for a JSON payload and is connected to a dozen NeoPixels in the light at the top of the police box.

Warble — A Custom Programming Language Designed for the Pi Cluster

We’re hosting the domain on OCI, backed by Domain Management, a Load Balancer, and a Compute Instance. The compute instance is running the same software that is running on the Pi Cluster: A Docker Container with GraalPython and a web service. This isn’t quite ready for prime time but check back here or on Twitter October 18th–20th because it will be live during CloudWorld, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

Warble Logo

We’ve created a programming language designed for Twitter to be run on the Pi Cluster called Warble. Warble isn’t a full-featured programming language and I took a lot of shortcuts. It’s made to use as few characters as possible so you can post a Warble to Twitter and have it run on the Pi Cluster. I have a Python script running on a Computer Instance using the Twitter API to search for the hashtag #pi. If the next character is an open curly brace and the last character is a close curly brace, then we have a Warble and it’s stored into a database. For Example:

> #pi{PRINT(“hello cluster”)}
< hello cluster

When the server has a few spare cycles, it gets a batch of Warbles from the database, finds a Pi that has lower than 30% CPU utilization, and sends the Warble to that Pi for processing. Warble is written in Python and converts Warbles into Python, then executes them. Currently it uses Python3, but we have a version written in GraalPython using some cutting-edge tech not ready for the public. Right now, our research engineers Rodrigo Bruno and Serhii Ivanenko in Oracle Labs are getting it ready to run on the cluster. For now, the results from the Warble post to an Autonomous Database via a REST API that’s easy to set up. Stuart Coggins and Jeff Smith have been gracious enough to help with that and make sure it is rock solid. We’ll have an APEX app that will display the Warbles and their results, and I hope we can get a leader board for custom visualizations.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see who can calculate Pi to the most digits on one of the World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Clusters?

> #pi{PRINT(2*ROUND(ACOS(0.0),3))}
< 3.142

It’s close enough.

Twitter will be a lot of fun, though it throttles the API and this is why we have the hosted domain. I will provide a REST endpoint to post Warbles. Maybe someone will figure out how to calculate Pi with Bailey–Borwein–Plouffe_formula using Warble or some other way.

I’m not going to write a syntax grammar but I will give some examples.

Warble supports variables:

> #pi{x=0PRINT(x)}
< 0

Warble can handle complex expressions:

> #pi{x=1/16.0²*(4.0/(8*k+1)-2.0/(8*k+4)-1.0/(8*k+5)-1.0/(8*k+6)}

While loops:

> #pi{i=0;WHILE(i<10){PRINT(i);i++}}
< 0
< 1
< 2
< 3
< 4
< 5
< 6
< 7
< 8
< 9

For loops:

> #pi{FOR(i=0;i<10;i++){PRINT(i)}}
< 0
< 1
< 2
< 3
< 4
< 5
< 6
< 7
< 8
< 9

I’m exposing most of the math functions as well as SETPRECISION(x). It isn’t short on characters but that’s fine.

Plus, you can save values and load them again. They are user specific:

> #pi{SAVE(“pi”,1)}

and then follow it up with a load:

> #pi{x=LOAD(“pi”);x++;SAVE(“pi”,x);PRINT(x)}
< 2

Lastly, the easter eggs. Warble can play a sound. Yes, this is another IoT device hooked up to the cluster, but it’s a Pi with an amplifier! Unfortunately you can only hear it if you are standing in front of it. Makes you want to come to Las Vegas and attend CloudWorld, doesn’t it?

> #pi{PLAYSOUND(”");}

There are also lights. This turns the first light to red:

> #pi{LIGHTS(0,255,0,0)}

If you wanted to turn the last light green you’d do this:

> #pi{LIGHTS(23,0,255,0)}

If you wanted to change the color of a light with a delay between do this:

> #pi{LIGHTS(0,0,255,0);SLEEP(20);LIGHTS(0,0,255,0)}

Or combine a few of these:

> #pi{FOR(i=0;i<24;i++){LIGHTS(i,0,255,0)}SLEEP(20);FOR(i=0;i<24;i++){LIGHTS(i,0,0,255)}}

Setting up a Site-To-Site VPN with OCI

On the Ubiquity Dream Machine Pro, with the help of Tim Clegg, I created a new subnet. Here’s an outline of the steps we followed. I’m not going to provide specific screen captures or a video because the options on Ubiquity and Oracle Cloud will change. Instead, here are some highlights of what you need and what to do:

Under networks create a new network with a name, I choose “pi”.
Network Type: Standard

Create a Site-to-site VPN
Network Name: pivpn
Pre-shared Key: ***********************
Server Address: <IP Address of Router> (default should be fine)
Remote Gateway/Subnets:
Remote IP Address: <IP Address of remote VPN>
Advanced: Manual
IPsec Profile: Customized
Route Distance: 30
Key Exchange Version: IKEv1
Encryption: AES-256
Hash: SHA1
IKE DH Group: 5
ESP DH Group: 5
Perfect Forward Secrecy: enabled
Dynamic Routing: enabled

I created three firewall rules:

1. pi block (gateway)

Type: LAN Local
Action: Drop
Source, Souce Type: Network
Source, Network: pi
Destination, Source Type: Network
Destination, Network: pi
Destination, Network Type: Gateway IP Address

2. Default accept to pi

Type: LAN In
Action: Accept
Source, Souce Type: Network
Source, Network: Default
Destination, Source Type: Network
Destination, Network: pi

3. pi block to Default

Type: LAN Out
Action: Drop
Source, Souce Type: Network
Destination, Network: pi
Destination, Source Type: Network
Source, Network: Default
Advanced: Manual
Check Match State New
Check Match State Invalid

4. In OCI go to Networking and Site-to-Site VPN
Create IPSec Connection.
Give it a name.
You’ll want this to get your public IP address.

dig -4 TXT +short

Enter it.

You’ll need to create two tunnels, so I set up both to point to the same VPN as OCI requires two and I only exposed one on my network. You’ll add this to the VPN.

5. Setup a Dynamic Routing Gateway
6. Setup a VCN, add an Ingress Rule with the CIDR that is your local subnet, for example mine is

The Future

After going through the paces for DevNucleus at Oracle CloudWorld, the Pi Cluster is heading to Oracle Labs where… well, the next part is a bit of a secret for now. Potential uses include:
1. running additional tests for GraalVM and Java
2. Edge computing projects
3. Robots & Parallel Processing (i.e. neural networks)
5. Activities suggested to us by you, the developer

With Pi Day 2023 just around the corner, you will definitely want to stay tuned for the next stage of evolution for this incredible piece of tech. Who knows? A few of the Pi may even find their way out of the cluster and into your hands.

I want to thank everyone that has had a hand in the project. Read A Temporal History of The World’s Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster for how this crazy amazing project came to be.



Aggregation of articles from Oracle engineers, Groundbreaker Ambassadors, Oracle ACEs, and Java Champions on all things Oracle technology. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of Oracle.

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Chris Bensen

I make stuff. Creator of the Worlds Largest Raspberry Pi Cluster and Lego Computer.