How to Develop for ARM on a Budget

How to Develop for ARM on a Budget

With a Kubernetes cluster based on Raspberry Pis, GitLab, and spare time. Developing a full computer cluster in one’s bedroom may seem like an exotic or complicated thing to do. However, with the wonderfully versatile Raspberry Pi platform any interested tinkerer can now easily play with building such as clusters themselves, and on a reasonable budget!

Developing a full computer cluster in one’s bedroom may seem like an exotic or complicated thing to do. However, with the wonderfully versatile Raspberry Pi platform any interested tinkerer can now easily play with building such as clusters themselves, and on a reasonable budget! While any developer can start some nodes on AWS or Azure at the click of a button, developing your own physical cluster has a satisfaction all its own, and allows one to learn things you never would otherwise. At the end of this cookbook, you will have a small, but fairly fast and stable arm64-based Kubernetes cluster, paired with GitLab to use as a build and deployment platform, so the cluster can be used for something real.

While Raspberry Pis are simple and cheap, they are real computers running a real OS, making them an ideal tinkering platform. One of the major differences with other ‘real’ computers is the CPU architecture, but this may soon change as well. Intel and x86 have dominated the server and desktop markets for many years, but there are some major moves happening hinting that this landscape is about to shift. Amazon AWS released their 2nd generation arm-based 64-bit CPU instance type, Canonical releases Ubuntu 20 with support for arm 64-bit, and Apple announced ARM based Apple silicon for their upcoming Mac computers. Raspberry Pis offer probably the cheapest and easiest way to gain some real experience with ARM64 right now!

The moves around ARM ignited my interest in doing something interesting with a couple Raspberry Pis I had lying around. While doing so, I did encounter some issues while trying to make everything work, which I’ve tried to document in this story. I used six Raspberry Pis to form a Kubernetes development cluster, which I integrated into a workflow developing web applications. It will fulfill an important part of my personal development pipeline where I test the apps I make, before these are shipped into production. I will touch various subjects and tools which are put together to make this work. It’s quite involved, so there’s no deep-dive on the architecture or software used. You can use this as a cookbook to replicate the set-up I made. Some steps are abbreviated, and I presume basic knowledge of using Ubuntu Server with the command-line, shell usage, and editing files.

kubernetes software-development raspberry-pi technology developer-tools

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