Mac OS X or Linux?

Robert G. Brown rgb at
Mon Apr 7 17:21:07 EDT 2003

On Mon, 7 Apr 2003, Robert Latham wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 07, 2003 at 11:33:30AM -0500, Carlos Ernesto Lopez Nataren wrote:
> > Hi!, we recently acquired 6 Xserve nodes at my institute, and we are
> > planning to setup a beowulf cluster, can anyone tell if it is worthy to
> > set it up with the OS it brings??? (Mac OS X server jaguar) or if it is
> > better to try to use linux on these beauties???
> I can show you lmbench numbers that show linux outperforming os x in
> *operating system specific* tasks, but real applications carry more
> weight than microbenchmarks.

Hola, Carlos!  Como Estas?  Say hello to Carmela and Jaime (if they are
still there).

My only modification to this is that I'd recommend looking at the
non-hardware costs a bit to determine if messing with either solution is
worth it.  Remember, it costs time and money to set things up and run
them, and this differential cost is very sensitive to things like the
scalability of what you build.  For example, with linux on intel or amd,
you can fully automate installation and upgrade for an entire cluster so
that it takes only a tiny bit of time per node per year to run the
thing.  All software is prebuilt ready to run, basically for free.  With
linux on mac, or mac os on macs, are you going to have anything like
this level of scaling?  No, because there will be lots of things you
have to build (and possibly port) for linux on mac, and because the mac
os on mac was built for a PC environment and I doubt that it scales like
rpm distros or debian.

As in, hardware can be "free" and not be worth it, if it costs you a
huge amount of human time to make everything work.  The further you get
from any of the "standard beowulf models" (whatever they might be at any
point in time) the more of YOUR time you're going to put in screwing
around getting things to work.  If your time is cheap and the benefit of
eventual success is great, this is no problem.  If your time is costly
and the benefit is at best "ok" if everything works when your done, you
might better consider ways of setting up 'wulfs closer to the standard

Of course, you may have cheap labor in the form of graduate
students...but it is still something to think about.;-)


Robert G. Brown	             
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at

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