Cluster Poll Results (tangent into OS choices)

Andrew M.A. Cater amacater at
Tue Nov 4 19:05:13 EST 2003

On Tue, Nov 04, 2003 at 05:50:57PM -0500, Joe Landman wrote:
> Andrew M.A. Cater wrote:
> [...]
> >BUT
> >
> >If you want an ultra stable platform to which you can freely contribute 
> >code and which you can use for any purpose - try Debian "stable".  
> > 
> >
It's an idea.

> There are interesting bits in debian.  I am not sure it is necessarily 
> the right choice for clusters due to the specific lack of commercial 
> support for cluster specific items such as Myrinet, and the other high 
> speed interconnects.  

Dan - if I build a _really big_ cluster, will you get Quadrics to do 
Debian :) 
Same goes for any other vendor - if you ask them nicely and make it 
worth their while, they'll do it.  In many cases, it's only a recompile 
of a device driver to account for library differences, after all.

HP use Debian internally, IIRC.  Some of the Debian developers are also
HP folk - HP are potentially looking to support more of their products 
under Linux? [See, for example, Debian Weekly News for today :) ]

> Commercial compiler support for Debian (e.g. 
> Intel, Absoft, et al) is largely non-existant as far as I know (please 
> do correct me if I am wrong).  

Compaq Alpha compilers work on the Alpha port or can be tweaked to IIRC.
I have no current expertise on big commercial compilers, however.

> Few if any commercial applications are certified to work on Debian 
> (Oracle, Legato, ....) and again, please correct me if I am wrong.

Many of these will run fine without formal certification from the 

Few, if any, current commercial apps run on Red Hat 4.2 / 5.0 - and 
current Red Hat 7.x/8.x/9.x is now as commercially relevant.  The big 
commercial apps will have to retrench their markets, potentially, to 
(one/both) of Novell / RH Enterprise Linux at ??$ per licence.  Unless 
it says RH/Novell on the box, they won't certify on something "less but 
Libre" based on RH.  But this is Linux - a commercial Linux app. will run 
on other distributions with a little thought / planning.  I'm not sure
they'll run Oracle on Scyld / ROCKS, for example.

> I simply don't see this as a universally viable alternative.  Debian 
> does indeed have lots of nice technical things going for it.  Maybe I am 
> missing some obvious point here.  I do know some people have built 
> clusters using it, but a few clusters does not a clustering distribution 
> make.  I believe someone at Cornell built Windows 2000 into a cluster.  
> Doesn't make Win2k a clustering OS though.

If the HPC on Linux community wants to build a clustering distribution 
on their terms they can within Debian.  A thousand coders worldwide who 
have more than a passing interest in fun stuff can work wonders if they 
see the motivation in quality and good code - a character trait I'm sure 
they have in common with many cluster folk, academics and researchers :)

> The distribution matters less than the overall support for what you want 
> to do with it.  I believe that it might be possible to build a Gentoo 
> based cluster, though I would be concerned about the length of time for 
> an OS load, among other things.  One of the hardest parts of a cluster 
> is getting the OS on.  

Getting Debian nodes up is no harder than anything else on any other 
distribution - provided its not your first ever experience of Linux :)  

The minimal Debian install really is fairly minimal, if that's what you 
want - you can readily build from there.  Want a full featured X Windows 
System - apt-get install x-windows-system. Want vi ?? Apt-get install vi 
/ elvis / vim / nvi ... :)

> ROCKS, BioBrew (and I understand Warewulf) make 
> this ridiculously easy.  Increasing the setup/management time, or making 
> your life harder in general, doesn't make much sense.   There is a 
> Knoppix variant that does clustering (OpenMosix style).  Not sure it is 
> the best solution, but I would like to hear from anyone using it.

This is fun if you want an ad-hoc StoneSouperComputer - the 512 node
machine built in a night on a German TV show or the four node proof
of concept idea for a show and tell in someone's office - but I'm
not entirely sure I'd trust my most valuable data to it. But hey, like
most things KNOPPIX based its an ultra cool demo :)

Have fun - at 0015 or so Zulu time, I'd better get some rest :)

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