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The PicoCluster Story

My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20. I got it when I was 12, just after my father passed away. That was the beginning of a life-long obsession with computers. My best friend had a full Apple IIe system, compete with green screen monitor and Apple Writer II printer. I used to go over there, even before I got the Vic 20, to play and learn basic programing.

The early home computer era is a favorite of mine. Not just because that's when I got my start with computers, but because it was a transitional time in the computer industry. Companies like Commodore, Apple, TI, Atari, Timex/Sinclair and many others, were competing in this brand new space.

Very few people thought there was a real market for a "home computer". Computers were for business. Nobody needed a computer at home. These companies were inventing the market and competing with each other as they were going along. The bottom line was that these home computers were really not that powerful, but they were good enough to what people wanted to do at home, and in business.

Fast forward a few decades into the era of cluster computing.

As a developer, I wanted to learn Hadoop to expand my skills and employment base. I went on Ebay and bought 10 Sun X86 1U servers. I set the up with operating systems, networked them all together, then got to installing and running a Hadoop cluster.

It took me about a week to get the Hadoop cluster working properly. The bigger problem was getting a $600 electric bill the following month. I had to shut everything down. I decided to measure how much power the servers were taking. All together, they were consuming close to 3 kilowatts of power. That would be like running your AC on full blast 24/7. I couldn't afford to keep running the cluster, so there it sat.

In order to keep going, I needed an alternative. That was the germination for PicoCluster. I built a test cluster for a local tech show and displayed it there. I got several requests to build more, but declined as that wasn't really what I wanted to do. As I thought about it though, I realized that many other develops had the same need that I did.

For PicoCluster, it feels to me like we're back to the early days of home computing again. These PicoCluster's are not super powerful, but that's OK. Far a large number of use cases at home an in business, they are more than powerful enough. The best thing is that they are inexpensive and for a 10 node cluster, it's only 30 watts of power instead of 3000 watts. Think about that for a moment!

We hope you enjoy this introduction and join the future of desktop clustering the PicoCluster way!

  - Craig