09 January 2017 / Last updated: 27 Jan 2017

The Evolution of the Beast Continues

Execution time:
TLDR: the Beast is a single board computer cluster designed as a testing and demo rig for resin.io. We built Beast v1, with 120 Raspberry Pis, back in 2014 and started working on the next iteration, Beast v2, with 144 Raspberry Pis, about a year later. Now we're designing Beast v3 and sharing progress on Gitter!

Beast v2 in the wild

Weighing in at nearly 150 kg and measuring nearly 2m tall, Beast v2 truly lives up to its name.
Like its predecessor, Beast v2 is a huge cluster of Raspberry Pis, 144 to be exact.
After months of design and construction, we released Beast v2 into the wild at the end of August, shipping it out to a large industrial customer who had funded its construction so they could use it during demos.

Back to the drawing board

We learned a lot in the process of building Beast v2 and immediately started on a new and improved design for Beast v3.
One thing we realized right away is that, although Beast v2 impressed in size and scale, it didn’t have the elegance of Beast v1. The tiles on Beast v3 will therefore be denser, with less empty space between devices. We want to squeeze in as many devices as possible.
Beast v2 was also difficult to take apart, transport, and reassemble, to say the least.
We’re therefore optimizing the new design for modularity so we can move Beast v3 around with us. It will be relatively easy to remove and replace individual tiles. Power will also be distributed in a mesh-like configuration, giving us flexibility to add and remove modules. The networking will be a bit trickier, but ultimately we believe we can do it in a way that puts modularity first, without long cables spanning the height of the tower (or whatever other configuration the tiles go into).
Beast v3 will have far fewer parts and be easier and quicker to assemble. Parts will be as widely available and affordable as possible, and custom components will be easy to order or even put together yourself, if you’re up for it! We’re also designing Beast v3 with customizability in mind so it can be modified and tricked out as desired. We want others to take our designs and build their own Beasts!

What’s next?

Beast v3 is the result of 2+ years of iteration on Raspberry Pi clusters, and we’re bringing the design process entirely into the open this time around. You can follow along and contribute on the dedicated Beast Gitter channel. We’ll also be posting more design details about Beast v3 here as the project develops. We’d love to hear from you along the way!
by Alison DavisCOO at balena

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