Is it possible to build a performant cluster for the home based on something like a plug pc:


I realise the Marvell Plug PC is not very powerful but in a couple of years I could imagine them starting to get dual cores and more RAM

  • 1
    What are you thinking to do with a cluster of plug computers? – heavyd Apr 22 '10 at 21:23
  • Cluster applications. Basically anything you could do with normal PCs in a cluster – Zubair Apr 22 '10 at 22:17

If you look at Performance / Watt, the server CPUs fare way better than the small cpus.

The small CPUs offer useable power at a lower wattage. But that doesnt mean they have more muscle per Watt. Yes - a 2W Atom delivers way less computations / watthour than a 130W Nehalem

For many parallel tasks the network communication overhead is also often a factor, and you want more power in the same box for this reason.

Look at what the large cluster owners buy. They calculate very clearly on what brings the most bang for the buck.

Therefore: no, a plug computer cluster is not feasible.

In case you want such a system to learn the technology of large cluster computing with many nodes, you will be better off buying one cheapish computer and put a lot of virtual machines on it.

  • But even if you has a lot of virtual machines on one big machine you wouldn't be simulating the network latency of a real cluster, or can that be done? – Zubair Apr 23 '10 at 16:02
  • @Zubair here and here – ta.speot.is Apr 23 '10 at 22:23
  • @taspeotis - thanks, interesting links. Would be great if the virtualisation products had this as a built in option though – Zubair Apr 24 '10 at 7:04

It is possible to build a plug PC cluster, but it is not feasible to do so. As you say:

I could imagine them starting to get dual cores and more RAM

In a few years "cheap" computers will come with 6GB of RAM and 12 cores, so the price/performance ratio of the plugs will be less than a standalone PC.

There are people who are trying to get things like this to work. You may want to research what people are doing with the Intel Atom and ARM CPUs.


IMHO the intent for clustering plug computers would be for raiding, reliability and load-balancing.

Also, simulating a cluster using severa;l virtual machines is silly unless you are only doing it for the experience. There's no way in H.E. double-toothpick that a virtual cluster running as virtual machine's on a host platform will ever out-do the host platform in which it is hosted.

Getting a virtual cluster to work faster than the host in which it resides is like inventing the perpetual motion machine, you'd become an instant billionaire. It would be like the money plant. Good luck! ;-)

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