Co-authored with Arm Innovator, David Tischler of miniNodes.
It has been a little over a year since we set out on the mission to create an Arm community hardware program focused on the edge for software developers. The need for such a program became apparent after witnessing the effects on the electronics industry (and almost all industries) due to COVID-19. From component and device shortages to overwhelmed shipping companies, and not to mention, a change in everyone’s work life as most people made the transition to working from home. We faced these hurdles head on and found new ways to provide developers with the hardware they need at an affordable price (FREE!).
COVID-19 may have played a big role in how this program came to be, but the idea came from a series of casual conversations with a pair of our esteemed Arm Innovators, and here is how it happened. While working with one of our Arm Innovators, Ajeet Raina, he mentioned the need for access to a cluster of NVIDIA Jetson Nano single board computers. The project he was working on sounded very exciting, so we quickly looked into getting some of these boards sent out to him in India. After further discussing his project, Ajeet mentioned he didn’t actually need the hardware on hand, in fact, remote access to this hardware was enough to do everything he needed! As it turns out, there are developers all around the world with needs like this, so the question had to be asked - What can we do to get developers access to Arm-based devices anywhere in the world? In comes another one of our Arm Innovators, David Tischler, his company miniNodes, a savvy 3D designer, and the Works on Arm program!
Works on Arm is an established program to accelerate software enablement for Arm based platforms for cloud to edge solutions. Arm has partnered with cloud and infrastructure providers to make Arm Neoverse based platforms available for software developers to build, test, and optimize for Arm64 architecture.
And as of this week, the Works on Arm program now offers access to a plethora of single board computers and edge devices too! You can learn more about this new offering by visiting the Works on Arm page, or visit this new offering directly here.
miniNodes is an Arm Innovation and Ideation engineering company, focused on Arm compute platforms. Over the past decade, miniNodes has provided thought leadership and ecosystem building, exploring topics such as clustered computing on small form-factor Arm devices, building the world’s first IoT, edge, and cloud proof-of-concept running entirely on Arm platforms, showing off the energy efficiency of Arm Servers, and advocating for standards to help ease the burden of booting Arm devices.
In addition, miniNodes has built and maintained a small hosting infrastructure for several years that provides low-cost, low-power Arm devices on a public IPv4 internet connection for developers and enthusiasts to run small servers. Primarily consisting of Raspberry Pis and Nvidia Jetson Nanos, this public-facing service has allowed miniNodes to engage with the community, gather feedback from Arm developers, and discover the pain points of providing cloud-native services on Arm (in order to help make the experience better for everyone).
Other projects that miniNodes has explored over the past year have been the redistribution of workloads back from the cloud, out to edge servers closer to users, the application of AI and machine learning on small Arm-powered devices, autonomous vehicles and the software-defined vehicle, and robotics and rovers in both simulated and real-world environments. miniNodes intersects with most of the areas that Arm compute plays a role, providing a unique perspective on the ecosystem of hardware and software.
The Arm ecosystem is vast, and as such, so are the amount of Arm-based devices out there. These devices come in many shapes and sizes (form factors), which presents a problem when wanting to host them in a single server chassis. Traditionally, if one wanted to host a Raspberry Pi alongside an NVIDIA Jetson Nano, or even a 96Boards, the accessories and layout would be different for each device. This means an entire section of your chassis would be consumed by a rack of one type of device, when in reality you might only need one or a few… This leaves you with too many of the same device, or wasted space in your chassis.
Early in the project, one of the biggest things we tackled was the universal SBC (single board computer) plate and 4U chassis mountable rack. We wanted to make sure we could fit as many of these form factors as possible, on a single removable plate, to make our racks versatile and easy to access.
One of our community developers, Gabriel Peterson, took on the task of creating these designs from scratch! Before long, we had everything we needed to get started.
miniNodes is proud to host and manage the brand new Arm Community Developer Hardware Program announced at Arm DevSummit 2021, with the goal of providing individual developers access to single board computers from an array of vendors. Developers who are accepted into the program are provided with an Arm-powered single board computer, running Linux, in a cloud environment. They can build applications, experiment with AI/ML, validate their software works on Arm, and generally learn and grow their skills, free of cost. Arm has generously sponsored the hardware, and miniNodes manages access and maintains the nodes and infrastructure at the datacenter.
To gain access to a board, we have a GitHub repository setup here where developers can fill out a request by opening up an Issue. The team will evaluate the proposal, and if selected, you will be provided with a node and credentials to access the board. Regular followup from the team ensures proper usage and milestones are met. When your project is concluded, we reformat and redeploy the node for the next team or user.
More information about the program can be found on the Works On Arm website below:
Arm Community Hardware Program by miniNodes
What will you build on Arm?
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