Planning the Cluster

Understand the foundational concepts and planning required to build a Raspberry Pi 5 cluster with Docker Swarm.

By Kevin McAleer,    3 Minutes

Introduction to Cluster Building

In this lesson, we’ll cover the initial planning stages necessary for building a Raspberry Pi 5 cluster capable of running Docker Swarm. This process involves understanding the architecture, selecting hardware, and designing the network layout for your cluster.

What is a Cluster?

A cluster consists of multiple computers (nodes) working together to perform tasks or run applications more efficiently than a single device could on its own. This setup is ideal for high-availability services, load balancing, and distributed computing tasks.

Choosing Raspberry Pi 5

  • Performance: The Raspberry Pi 5 offers significant computing power, making it suitable for a personal cluster environment.
  • Connectivity: It includes Ethernet and Wi-Fi support for flexible networking options.
  • Energy Efficiency: Its low power consumption makes it an ideal choice for running 24/7 services.

Cluster Architecture

When planning a Raspberry Pi cluster, consider the roles each Pi will play:

  • Manager Nodes: These nodes manage the Docker Swarm, orchestrating the deployment of services across the worker nodes.
  • Worker Nodes: These nodes run the Docker containers as instructed by the manager.

Network Topology

Designing your network is crucial for communication between the Raspberry Pis and the outside world. Consider:

  • Static IP Addresses: Assigning static IPs to each node ensures reliable internal communication.
  • Network Hardware: Depending on the scale, you might need switches to connect all your Pis.

Docker Swarm Basics

Docker Swarm turns a group of Docker hosts into a single, virtual Docker host. It’s a lightweight alternative to Kubernetes and is perfect for a Raspberry Pi cluster due to its simplicity and low resource requirements.

Considerations for a Raspberry Pi Cluster

  • Power Supply: Ensure you have a reliable power source that can support multiple Pis.
  • Cooling: Adequate cooling is necessary to prevent overheating.
  • Storage: Plan for external or network-attached storage if your projects require significant disk space.


Planning is a critical first step in building a Raspberry Pi cluster. By understanding the cluster architecture, network requirements, and hardware considerations, you can ensure a smooth setup process for your Docker Swarm cluster. In the next lessons, we’ll dive deeper into setting up the Raspberry Pi OS, initializing Docker Swarm, and adding worker nodes to your cluster.

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