Multiple HiFive Unmatched Working Together

I am interested in setting up two or more HiFive Unmatched as a 3D graphics render farm, or as a “cluster” of computers to solve computation heavy problems. However, I have no experience with these things. Does anyone see any issues with this idea?

At the moment I am thinking of getting a Dual ITX rackmount case for this.

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Since you mention ITX I presume you mean HiFive Unmatched.

How do you propose to have them communicate and cooperate?

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of HiFive Unmatched! Beowulf uses ethernet to communicate, so no problems.

It’s not going to be a cheap way to get computation power though, as the cheapest i7 or Zen3 will have 5-10 times the performance of an Unmatched. Or a Raspberry Pi 4 will have a bit more CPU power than the Unmatched, starting at $35.

If you don’t need a lot of RAM per core then you could get a lot of computational power with RISC-V much more cheaply using a few dozen or few hundred $12 MAix BiT boards (8 MB RAM, 2x 400 MHz CPU, and an “AI Engine”). Figuring out communication between boards like that would be interesting, and they obviously can’t run modern Linux but an RTOS is fine.

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Yes I meant Unmatched… I actually know nothing about this topic but I was always curious aas to how to get it working. After doing some research, I did find that its rather popular to do a Raspberry Pi Cluster. Cheap and lower power consumption. I guess I was just thinking what I would use this machine for in my daily life. So I had the thought that if I had two, they could be like a little render farm tucked in my rack. Not that I am rich, but cost didnt really come to mind. I was just thinking I want to support RISCV even if its not the fastest or even practical. I was thinking of just having them communicate over ethernet.

I am a hobbyist and tinker with this stuff because I like the idea of open hardware and want to support it. I was wondering if this idea would function at all. I have never clusterized computers before.

Now, I feel like I just need to do the mainstream think and make a Raspberry Pi cluster and when I learn more, try it with RISCV stuff.

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Of course it’s a fine thing to experiment with if you have the means and interest!

I wonder if you’re aware of this project?

That’s clustering boards using the PolarFire SoC, which is an FPGA chip with a slower (667 MHz) version of the HiFive Unleashed embedded inside it.


Thank you. I was not aware of this.

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I’d like a RISC-V workstation, just to not have an Intel system. The Unmatched board looks quite good (the update to 16 gigs is a huge plus imho), but still quite underpowered for a “real” day to day workstation, at least for me.

I was considering setting up a mini-cluster as you suggest as well. Five boards along these lines:

  • Firewall node with 4 port ethernet PCI.
  • GUI node with HDMI PCI.
  • Three compute nodes.

The GUI and compute nodes all plug into the firewall 4-port ethernet, so they can’t get in/out without any traffic going thru that. I’d put OpenBSD on the firewall. On the other nodes, Debian (PureOS?). Then you have the GUI node that boots up with X, and when you launch processes you kick them off to the compute notes (e.g. run your browser on the compute nodes and view on GUI node).

You can also add a lot of storage via all the M.2 slots that are available…

Case is tough. There are innumerable Mini-ITX cases, but few that mount multiple boards (let alone the odd number of 5). There are some rack mount cases I’ve seen in the past that can hold multiple Mini-ITX boards. The other option I was looking at was doing it along the lines of what the blockchain GPU miner community does. They build a lot of open rigs out of t-slot extrusion and similar. Power supply is another issue…(unless you just get 5).

Happy hacking!

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Well, as I stated I know nothing about cluster computing, but I think it would be a fun think to learn about. I wasn’t aware of the idea of different nodes for different purposes. Where can I learn about this stuff? By the way, I found a case that might be suitable for your odd amount of nodes if youd do something like 1 HiFive Unmatched along with 4 other smaller boards like Raspberry-Pi like devices, or perhaps two HifIve Unleashed and find a way to mount 3 more Raspberry-Pi like devices.

I found a dual mini itx case on amazon. Might be worth a shot.

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I’m not sure what’s best to read up on this, but the original GNU/Linux cluster was the “Beowulf”, which is a good place to start:

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