The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is an interesting concept mostly designed for embedded solutions.
A regular Raspberry Pi gives you an HDMI slot, a camera slot, GPIO Pins, USB, audio, etc. but a CM4 with the proper board can give you a PCIe slot, onboard SATA, or onboard NVME M.2
But where are those boards?
I’m looking for a board that will do NVME M.2 natively for a 3.15″ SSD. I simply can’t find one.
You can take the official Raspberry Pi IO Board and add a PCIe adapter to achieve this but it is kind of a kluge the way it sits in the slot and to date I’ve seen no specific cases that would hold the board securely.
Plus if you give up that PCIe lane to the adapter you can’t use it for other cool things.
What’s a geek to do?
I did find one board called the MirkoPC board which looked promising but due to the Supply Chain issues with IC chips it is like so much vaporware.
I could go on and on and provide examples of things that almost fit the bill (my bill), but the truth is the CM4 platform is suffering badly from the Supply Chain issues we are plagued with.
Bear in mind none of the stuff I want to build is vital to my home network. I have plenty of servers. I dare say too many servers.
But………….FOR THE COST AND THE TINY FORM FACTOR you can build a small, unobtrusive, quiet network appliance with adequate storage and put it at a family or friends house. Or your detached garage, or in your office and you can have redundant, off site backup. That is really the powerful solution that I see.
Or what if you could have a carrier board with onboard SATA? Those only exist as vaporware too. Seems there are 3 or 4 that have been made but they also seem abandoned due to the Supply Chain issues. Again you can put a PCIe SATA adapter in a Raspberry Pi IO board and I did just that in a previous recent blog post but suddenly it isn’t so small, unobtrusive, or quiet of a network appliance.
Compute Module 4’s are fun and powerful but if a carrier board isn’t there to support your project you are dead in the water UNLESS YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN. And to be fair, that is the whole point of the embedded solution of the Compute Module……….for developers to design their own embedded solutions for robotics, or whatever, and to maintain small sizes and lower profiles. Your basic, garden variety geek, is somewhat left out in the cold on this one.
One project you can do though and there seems to be an abundance of carrier boards for is to build a router. And while that is cool, and very powerful, my choice of router which I use as a firewall appliance runs pfSense. Pfsense doesn’t offer up an ARM architecture so installing it on Raspberry Pi is out of the question. You could run OpenWRT and hook a cellular modem up and make yourself a travel router.
Anyway, I love the Compute Modules, and I would really love to build some cool stuff, and I really do love my server project with the SATA Board. I’ve put it to good use and also use it to stream media to an old vintage receiver in my man shed. Very cool. But I would sure love to build a super tiny NVME storage platform as I mentioned earlier for an offsite backup or to use as a media server in my camper.
If you think there is a Supply Chain issue with computer chips now that is detrimental to this hobby, just you wait until China takes over Taiwan (if that indeed happens). This is a bad time to be a Pi geek.