FRuIT: The Federated RaspberryPi Micro-Infrastructure Testbed

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Computing Science

Abstract

The introduction of ubiquitous low-cost, low-power compute devices, e.g. in the Internet of Things (IoT) is fundamentally changing the computational landscape. Although we already see the benefits provided by special purpose IoT devices, the true capability is only realised when we can re-purpose large numbers of distributed devices as part of a much larger federated service. This is captured in the FRUIT project hypothesis:
"Massive aggregation of low-cost, low-power, commodity infrastructure can form an efficient and
effective compute fabric for key distributed applications."

The participating institutions and external collaborators will build a distributed UK-wide federated testbed of lightweight compute nodes capable of exploring the research issues that arise from such a dynamic infrastructure.

This is in contrast to the existing centralised datacentre approach which occupies acres of land, cost millions of dollars; consumes megawatts of power and relies on a huge global network bandwidth. These trends are not sustainable and it is the emergence of low cost hardware such as the Raspberry Pi that will let us explore better solutions. We envisage a testbed comprising tens of thousands of nodes, geographically distributed and capable of challenging remote off-grid scenarios. In order to facilitate this we introduce the concept of a micro-datacentre, a physically small, low power and low cost compute cluster that can be pushed to the edge of distributed networks, fundamentally changing the current model of the centralised datacentre. We have already built prototype micro-data centres at multiple sites , for example a mini-HPC cluster (Southampton University), a scale model cloud datacentre (Glasgow and Liverpool John Moores University ),
and a decentralized sensing and communication platform for ultra-remote internet blackspots (Cambridge University)

This project is about connecting together our isolated micro-datacenters to produce a federated, geo-distributed testbed. We currently have hundreds of individual nodes and intend to grow this to tens of thousands across the UK academic network. The key challenge in this expansion will be the management of the underlying infrastructure, particularly given complexities in the networking fabric. For example intermittent connectivity, firewalls, and low bandwidth connections. We will use lightweight management and orchestration software, combined with software-defined networking infrastructure to manage our federated testbed.


Through this work, we aim to demonstrate how resource-constrained micro-data centres can be harnessed as generic platforms to run virtualised, network-wide services in a resource-efficient and still high-performing manner, and enable the 'as-a-Service' paradigm over low-cost low-power federated infrastructures.

Planned Impact

We will engage in academic dissemination via research publications at targeted conference venues like NSDI, SOSP, VEE, Infocom, IEEE Cloud, also appropriate journals like Transactions on Networks, Computer Networks.
e.g. Cox and Johnson are editing a special issue of the Electronics journal on `Raspberry Pi Technology'.

We will organize community workshops, separately for both academic and general enthusiast audiences.
We have significant experience in this area, e.g. Glasgow academics have presented invited seminars and hands-on demos at 11 workshop events over the past 3 years. These include BCS events, Pi Jam events, PhD summer schools etc.
Further, many academics, industrialists and enthusiasts across the world consult us for guidance when building their own micro-datacenters. They follow our progress on the Glasgow project blog at http://raspberrypicloud.wordpress.com

We will undertake public engagement of the massive online Raspberry Pi community across the world. We will release open source instructions for all our infrastructure, hardware blueprints, tool configuration and software source code. Initially the aim will be for others to federate with us directly, later we will encourage them to clone their own distributed systems.

We intend to achieve long-term impact via standardization of configuration and deployment protocols for micro-datacenters. We expect to engage with industry and standards bodies to convert our work into official standards. e.g. Colin Perkins interacts regularly with the IETF standardization process.

In terms of the testbed sustainability, we intend to grow over the funded project to a number of sites across JANET - at least 10. We have secured agreement from Heriot Watt and UCL to build Raspberry Pi testbeds there already.

We recognise that new generations of low-power embedded devices are coming onstream all the time. What will the Raspberry Pi 3 look like? We appreciate the need to be able to retarget our software stack to these other devices too. However once the standards are in place and our demonstrator testbed is live, we expect that the open source community will become involved in porting our work to other infrastructures.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description It is feasible to develop single-board compute clusters using commodity hardware like Raspberry Pi. These low-power, low-footprint, low-cost clusters have sensible use cases and deployment scenarios, including in disaster zones, developing economies, and educational learning environments.
Exploitation Route Our open source hardware and software can be used by others to construct their own low-power federated clusters.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics

URL https://fruit-testbed.org
 
Description RAEng Seed Funding (GCRF) (Eiko Yoneki at Cambridge)
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2019
 
Title PiStack PCB Design 
Description The files specify a printed circuit board (PCB) design that enables Raspberry Pi boards to be inter-connected in a straightforward manner, allowing them to be integrated into micro-scaled compute clusters. 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The PCBs manufactured from this specification enable the easy construction of stacked clusters of Raspberry Pi nodes, facilitating single-board computer clusters. There is a growing research community in this area, which is attracting commercial interest. Our boards are useful infrastructure building blocks for such communities. 
URL https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/416906/
 
Title System software for Federated Raspberry Pi Micro-Infrastructure Testbed 
Description A software configuration, deployment and management infrastructure for hosted Linux instances running on single-board compute clusters, like the FRuIT Raspberry Pi federated cluster. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The development of the FRuIT infrastructure, as a conceptual piece of hardware 
URL https://github.com/fruit-testbed/
 
Description Digital Epidemiology: Understanding Epidemic Spread using Human Contact Networks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics entitled
' Digital Epidemiology: Understanding Epidemic Spread using Human Contact
Networks' - cross-disciplinary presentation about Computing Science research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Facilitation of Maker event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I ran a hardware hack event with students, showing them how to program simple microcontrollers to do internet-of-things style sensing. We used BBC micro:bit devices, programming in Python
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/events/makerspace/
 
Description Glasgow Science Festival Participation (Explorathon) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A robot racing game, demonstrating autonomous vehicle technology to the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.explorathon.co.uk/
 
Description Picycle scheme for Raspberry Pi recycling 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We are encouraging people to donate their old single board computers (e.g. Raspberry Pi devices) to our FRuIT research project, by sending them to us at a FREEPOST address. We then use these machines to build our cluster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://picycle.org
 
Description Presentation @ Networkshop46 entitled FRµIT: Raspberry Pi Clusters and other adventures in networking research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact an overview of our FRuIT project, highlighting its technical novelties and relevance for JISC infrastructure.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.jisc.ac.uk/networkshop
 
Description Strathclyde Raspberry Pi Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach presentation about Raspberry Pi based research at Glasgow University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.strath.ac.uk/science/physics/bringingphysicstoyou/raspberrypiday/
 
Description Talk at the Arm Research Summit 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Outreach style talk about our research project, delivered to employees at Arm and other international researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://developer.arm.com/research/summit/previous-summits/2017/speakers
 
Description presentation at Workshop on Heterogeneous and Low-Power Data Center technologies (HeLP-DC) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Description of a custom peer-to-peer software updating framework we have developed as part of our FRuIT project, which may be applicable to a wider set of systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.hipeac.net/events/activities/7522/help-dc/#fndtn-main