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PiCloud Is A Model Cloud Made Of Raspberry Pi & LEGO For Teaching Students About Web Platforms

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Is there aught the Raspberry Pi can’t do? Here’s another interesting implementation of the $35 microcromputer — or rather a stack of 56 Pis, linked together to form what its creators have called PiCloud, using LEGO bricks as bespoke racks for the Pi stacks. (Not the first time we’ve seen Pi paired with LEGO either.)

The project comes out of the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, and is intended as a teaching aid so students can hack around with a model cloud platform and play with techs like virtualisation to learn about the infrastructure underpinning services like Amazon’s AWS.

The 56 Raspberry Pis in PiCloud are stacked in four mini Lego racks, each topped off with a top-of-rack-switch which has 16 Ethernet connections: 14 used to network the Pis and the other two for connecting the switches. At the software stack layer of PiCloud, each Pi board is running Raspbian Linux, with three LXC containers per Pi each running a Linux instance.

Hosted software on PiCloud includes running “simple workloads” within each container (such as lighttpd) and “artificial workloads” (like lookbusy) for experiments. Other experimental hacking on PiCloud has featured libvirt and dockerHadoop is also part of the mix, although this is only currently working on the native Linux instance, rather than an LXC instance.

One of the computing schools’s students has also built an AWS-like web console interface for PiCloud (see screengrab below).

picloud-aws-interface

PiCloud’s creators describe it as a “never-ending work-in-progress”. Aka a teaching aid. Their future plans for the platform include using standard tools such as ovirt, “if/when we get libvirt working” — but they’re also asking for suggestions for research directions and collaborations. For more on PiCloud, check out the project homepage.

PiCloud is a great example of how the Pi is fulfilling the mission of its creators, as well as proving popular with the maker community. The Raspberry Pi Foundation originally set out to build a low-cost microcromputer to get more U.K. kids learning to code. PiCloud is certainly helping with that.