Cluster Poll Results (tangent into OS choices, Fedora and Debian)

Tod Hagan tod at
Fri Oct 31 18:59:16 EST 2003

On Fri, 2003-10-31 at 14:44, Vann H. Walke wrote:
> What are the alternatives?
> [snip]
> - Fedora - Planned releases 2-3 times a year.  So, if I build a system
> on the Fedora release scheduled this Monday, who will be providing
> security patches for it 2 years from now (after 4-6 new releases have
> been dropped).  My guess is no-one. Again, we're in the do it yourself
> maintenance or frequent OS upgrade mode.
> [snip]
> - Debian - Could be a good option, but to some extent you end up in the
> same position as Fedora.  How often do the releases come out.  Who
> supports the old releases?  What hardware / software will work on the
> platform?  

If Fedora achieves 2-3 upgrades per year then it will be fairly
different from Debian, which seems to be at 2-3 years per upgrade these
days, (well almost).

After a new release comes out Debian supports the old one for a period
of time (12 months?) with security updates before pulling the plug.

Debian can be upgraded in place as opposed to requiring a full
resinstall; while this is great for desktops and servers, I'm not sure
if this is important for a cluster.

As a result of the extended release cycle Debian stable tends to lack
support for the newest hardware (Opteron 64-bit, for example). This is
why Knoppix, which is based on Debian, isn't derived from Debian stable,
but rather from packages in the newer releases (testing, unstable and
experimental). But the flip side is that the stable release, while
dated, tends to work well as it's had a lot of testing.

Debian could probably use more recognition as a target platform by
commercial software vendors but it incorporates a huge number of
packages including many open source applications pertinent to science.
Breadth in packaged applications is probably more important for
workstations since clusters tend to use small numbers of apps very

As a distribution Debian is more oriented towards servers than the
desktop (to the point that frustrated users have spawned the "Debian
Desktop" subproject). It seems to me that clusters have more in common
with servers than with desktops so that Debian's deliberate release rate
is a better match for the cluster environment than distros which release
often in order to incorporate the latest GUI improvements.


While looking into the number of packages in Debian vs. Fedora I
stumbled across this frightening bit (gotta throw a Halloween reference
in somewhere) on the Fedora site:
> Packages in Fedora Extras should avoid conflicts with other packages
> in Fedora Extras to the fullest extent possible. Packages in Fedora
> Extras must not conflict with packages in Fedora Core.

It seems that Fedora intends to achieve applications breadth through
"Fedora Extras" package sets in other repositories, but the prohibition
of conflicts between Extras packages isn't as strong as the absolute
prohibition of conflicts between Extras and Core packages. Could this
result in a new era of DLL hell a few years down the road?

Wow, I guess I just slung some FUD at Fedora, but maintaining a 2-3
releases per year rate probably requires a small core, putting the bulk
of applications into the Extras category and thus increasing the chance
of conflict. (Wasn't that the original recipe for DLL hell?) Debian has
avoided this through a much larger core, which of course slows the
release cycle.

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