[Beowulf] best linux distribution

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Mon Oct 8 17:09:35 EDT 2007

On Mon, 8 Oct 2007, Buccaneer for Hire. wrote:

> My personal favorite?  My laptop runs Fedora 7.

Yeah, mine too...;-)

My own experience regarding back vs forward porting --

In many cases one simply cannot backport, because the libraries you need
aren't there and ain't a-gonna be there unless you do WAY more work than
you EVER want to do.  There is a reason distributions are
"distributions", after all...

Forward porting, on the other hand, tends to be pretty easy.
Distributions rarely lose CAPABILITY even if they may have different
header files and when one command/subroutine call is deprecated and
eventually obsoleted in favor of another.  I maintain some truly ancient
sources (e.g. jove), and I've had little difficulty getting those
sources to build under FC-whatever even when I've had to go in and hack
one particular subroutine call out in favor of another in five source
files, or change the include headers so things are still findable at
build time.  And a LOT of sources -- pretty much any sources written in
anything approximating what is laughably considered "portable" ANSI or
Posix compatible C -- just build.  Type "make", stand back, possibly
after doing the ./configure --prefix=/usr thing, possibly not.

But still, as I note in a previous response, there is no knee-jerk
correct answer to the question "what is the best distro for a cluster".
For most people, the best one is the one they are the most comfortable
with, installing, managing, building software for.  For people that know
more than one distro (or are confident they can learn whatever they need
to to run additional distros or change distros), well, there are all of
those "questions" to ask yourself and try to objectively answer for the
distros you wish to consider -- how scalable is its install, how
well-provisioned is it in terms of libraries, how aggressively do you
need to upgrade it (nothing MAKES you upgrade ANY cluster that is
network isolated and fully functional as it is, even if it is running
Fedora whatever and there is no longer any update stream for it), how
well does it match your hardware requirements, what's the relative cost
in work to BOTH manage it AND use it in comparison to alternatives, 
what kind of environment is it running in (and are there any hidden
economies of scale there) and are there any one-of-a-kind gotchas to
think about?


Robert G. Brown
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
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