Colocation of Rasp Pi servers

Lead Image © ayelet Keshet,

Berry Hosting Services

A recent trend shows several data centers are offering professional hosting services for Raspberry Pis. What is this all about?

One morning last February, a team from a Dutch hosting provider [1] came up with the idea of offering free hosting for Raspberry Pis. The team projected that there would be about 50 people who would take advantage of the offer. However, as news of the offer sped across the Internet, more and more people signed up. By the middle of April, the service provider found itself operating three server cabinets, each of which was filled with 150 Rasp Pis.

As illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, the unexpected response from Raspberry Pi users made it necessary for the team to rethink the provisional structures they had put in place. For several months now, the service provider has been using specially constructed racks. The racks in each cabinet hold 500 Pis. In the meantime, 2,000 people have now taken advantage of the hosting offer, and the provider has recently started charging new customers about US$ 4.25 per month for hosting a Pi. Now, service providers from Austria [2] and Sweden  [3] are copying the idea.

Figure 1: A colony of Raspberry Pis.
Figure 2: The innards of a rack.

Is It Desirable?

From a technology standpoint, offering colocation for Raspberry Pis does not make much sense. Therefore, this service could rightfully be viewed as a marketing tool for the host provider. Or, perhaps it can be seen as a project undertaken by the data center team to test what possibilities exist. End users who need to have a broadband connection for their Linux shell or a dynamic web presence can just as well rent a vServer for EUR 3 or about US$  4.10 per month.

A vServer has the advantage that users need not purchase a separate Pi; moreover, re-installations can be fully automated. So, if you want to test out another distribution, all you have to do is press a button. For hosted Pis, the customer must first send a support request to the data center and wait for assistance from the help team. If at any time the customer would like to have his Pi back, there will be additional charges of EUR 7.50, or about US$  10 for packing and shipping costs. The vServer also appears to make more sense with regard to automatic backups.

Leaving aside the purely logical lines of thinking, an improvised server rack full of Rasp Pis does look appealing. The ideas inspired by the tiny computer can be surprising. Perhaps the reason so many people want to have a Pi sitting in a data center is simply because they can, and it is fun – not because it makes sense.

In case you are considering one of these offerings, you should note that, for security purposes, you should "harden" the Rasp Pi before its initial deployment, just as you would any other Internet server. As a first step, the standard user ID – pi – should be changed.

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