The Raspberry Pi foundation has announced the “Raspberry Pi compute module”. As we are big fans of the Raspberry Pi, this looks like an interesting product to us. However, let’s have a closer look first.
The product is clever for the Raspberry Pi foundation. Many of the Raspberry Pis sold already are not used by private persons, but in industrial applications. The good availability and the low price of the Raspberry Pi made it a nice platform for these many applications. With the new board, the foundation clearly targets this market.
The compute module basically consists of the Broadcom SoC chip and a 4GB flash. The 4GB flash is really nice, because you don’t need an SD card with this module. All other hardware that is included in the Raspberry Pi Model B is missing. The most critical: there is no ethernet controller. Using a standard SO-DIMM module is good for large producers, but for small quantities this increased costs again. Also there is no voltage regulator on the board, which means you need external 3.3V and 1.8V voltage regulators. Therefore solutions based on this board won’t be cheaper, but most likely more expensive than solutions based on the Raspberry Pi.
Some people where already dreaming about clusters of compute nodes for computing applications. I don’t think this is a good idea. If you’re really looking for CPU performance, the Raspberry Pi is not the first choice. There are many other ARM based SoCs available, that provide much better performance and are only a bit more expensive.