[Beowulf] A couple of interesting comments

Chris Dagdigian dag at sonsorol.org
Fri Jun 6 12:15:24 EDT 2008


Bad job hiding the (obvious) vendor ;)

I'm riding the bus back home to Boston after a cluster building gig  
and your experience exactly matches what I encountered when I walked  
into the datacenter to start work on a pile of dell 1950 servers.

I'll do you one better - 4 nodes out of our "homogenous" cluster had  
reversed drive cabling which broke our imaging system as we had  
specific data to place on 2 drives of differing capacity.


Regards,
Chris

/* Sent via phone - apologies for typos & terseness */


On Jun 6, 2008, at 11:39 AM, Gerry Creager <gerry.creager at tamu.edu>  
wrote:

> We recently purchased a set of hardware for a cluster from a  
> hardware vendor.  We've encountered a couple of interesting issues  
> with bringing the thing up that I'd like to get group comments on.   
> Note that the RFP and negotiations specified this system was for a  
> cluster installation, so there would be no misunderstanding...
>
> 1.  We specified "No OS" in the purchase so that we could install  
> CentOS as our base.  We got a set of systems with a stub OS, and an  
> EULA for the diagnostics embedded on the disk.  After clicking thru  
> the EULA, it tells us we have no OS on the disk, but does not fail  
> to PXE.
>
> 2.  BIOS had a couple of interesting defaults, including warn on  
> keyboard error (Keyboard?  Not intentionally.  This is a compute  
> node, and should never require a keyboard.  Ever.)  We also find the  
> BIOS is set to boot from hard disk THEN PXE. But due to item 1,  
> above, we never can fail over to PXE unless we load up a keyboard  
> and monitor, and hit F12 to drop to PXE.
>
> In discussions with our sales rep, I'm told that we'd have had to  
> pay extra to get a real bare hard disk, and that, for a fee, they'd  
> have been willing to custom-configure the BIOS. OK, with the BIOS  
> this isn't too unreasonable: They have a standard BIOS for all  
> systems and if you want something special, paying for it's the  
> norm...  But, still, this is a CLUSTER installation we were quoted,  
> not a desktop.
>
> Also, I'm now told that "almost every customer" ordered their  
> cluster configuration service at several kilobucks per rack.  Since  
> the team I'm working with has some degree of experience in  
> configuring and installing hardware and software on computational  
> clusters, now measured in at least 10 separate cluster  
> installations, this seemed like an unnecessary expense.  However,  
> we're finding vendor gotchas that are annoying at the least, and  
> sometimes cause significant work-around time/effort.
>
> Finally, our sales guy yesterday was somewhat baffled as to why we'd  
> ordered without OS, and further why we were using Linux over Windows  
> for HPC.  Not trying to revive the recent rant-fest about Windows  
> HPC capabilities, can anyone cite real HPC applications generally  
> run on significant clusters (I'll accept Cornell's work, although I  
> remain personally convinced that the bulk of their Windows HPC work  
> has been dedicated to maintaining grant funding rather than doing  
> real work)?
>
> No, I won't identify the vendor.
> -- 
> Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
> Texas Mesonet -- AATLT, Texas A&M University
> Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.862.3982 FAX: 979.862.3983
> Office: 1700 Research Parkway Ste 160, TAMU, College Station, TX 77843
>
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