LONDON: Computer scientists have made a working model of multi-million pound cloud computing technology using just Lego bricks and a handful of £20 mini-computers.
The University of Glasgow’s Raspberry Pi Cloud project links together 56 Raspberry Pi computer boards in racks made from Lego, which mimic the function and modular design of commercial cloud computing infrastructure.
In recent years, cloud computing has become increasingly popular, with major corporations such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft making huge investments to provide software and hardware resources to business and home computer users over the internet.
However, cloud computing service providers maintain a great deal of secrecy over how their systems work beyond the software available to end-users, making it difficult for computer science researchers and students to develop practical understanding of cloud infrastructure.
Dr Dimitrios Pezaros, Dr Jeremy Singer, Dr Posco Tso and Dr David White of the University’s School of Computing Science developed the Raspberry Pi Cloud project to broaden access to cloud computing research and education.
“The introduction of the Raspberry Pi last year offered us for the first time the opportunity to affordably build a small, portable and energy-efficient network of computers which could act as a platform for cloud computing research and teaching,” Dr Singer said.
“For an initial investment of less than £4,000, we’ve been able to build a Linux-based system which allows researchers and students complete access to a working cloud computing infrastructure at a tiny fraction of the cost of its commercial equivalent. We’ve used 56 Raspberry Pis in this first project but the numbers involved could easily be scaled up or down as required.
“Although we’ve been offering lectures for students on cloud computing for several years now, the Raspberry Pi Cloud gives us a major advantage over other universities because we can now offer students hands-on experience with cloud computing hardware and software and give them a unique skillset they can take into the job market,” he said.
Launched last year, the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi requires just a keyboard and a monitor to run and was designed to provide young people with an affordable and flexible introduction to computing science. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the charity which developed the hardware, has sold more than 1.2 million system boards to date.