[Beowulf] Application Deployment

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Sat Oct 9 16:56:22 PDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert G. Brown" <rgb at phy.duke.edu>
To: "Rajiv" <jrajiv at hclinsys.com>
Cc: <beowulf at beowulf.org>
Sent: Saturday, October 09, 2004 3:24 PM
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Application Deployment

> On Sat, 9 Oct 2004, Rajiv wrote:
> > Dear All,
> > Is there any software available for application deployment- both linux
> > and windows. I would like to install packages from master to all the
> > clients through a management console.
> Again, I don't know about Windows -- most software running on a WinXX
> box will be proprietary, and simply cannot be installed in the way you
> describe without either a lot of knowledge and/or Windows-specific
> tools.  After all, you've got all those CD codes and serial numbers and
> other proprietary bullshit to manage, and you're at serious risk of
> lawsuit if you fail to manage them perfectly.  Windows does remote
> install these days, as I understand it, although I doubt that it
> remotely approaches kickstart in its ease of use and transparency.

Actually, Windows DOES provide a central management capability, with fairly
good control of the client images, management of those pesky licensing
issues, etc.

It's called SMS (Systems Management Server), and it's been around for about
10 years (at least), and in its current form is a godsend for people who
have to manage all those thousands of WinXX desktops in big companies.  With
the huge volume of patches required to keep a Windows environment working,
you'd have to have something like it.

Ever since the earliest Windows versions that supported networking, there
have been ways to do centralized network installs (I can't remember if
Windows for Workgroups did it, but certainly, the first versions of Win NT
did) and fairly automated rollouts of new software versions.  Typically, the
documentation came in the "resource kits", and lately, would be in things
like "enterprise version back office resource kits".  Often, if you forked
out the kilobuck for a Visual whatever development kit, it would include all
that stuff (along with the driver development kit, the SDK, etc., )

I might note that part of the incentive behind the ".NET" initiative is to
simplify the whole configuration management across an enterprise scale
installation.  Part of it is a "late binding" to the services/components
that your application needs, and the ability for your application to be
insensitive to just how that component becomes available.  Not incidentally,
of course, the architecture includes ways to manage charging for the use of
a component, both on a traditional licensing model, and on a per use model,
and probably all manner of complex ways in between. Let's see, I want to
watch a HDTV movie, so I have a monthly license for the decompression
engine, a per use/per view license for the movie, a per day license for the
ability to stop/start/rewind the movie, all with complex cross costing among
the various and sundry providers (Now, for 3 days only, watch Star Trek XXI
without paying decompression license fees, with the purchase of a Nokia
cellphone (available only in areas served by Adelphia, within 6 miles of a
qualifying retail outlet, 3 year contract required, mail-in rebate may take
6-8 months to process, void where prohibited, see etc.etc. for details.)

You're just not going to get it at your local Comp-USA or download it off
the web.  And, it's not free or even particularly cheap (although, compared
to the cost of all those licenses for the desktops, it's quite reasonable.)
And, in a somewhat limited version, it's fairly inexpensive (so that
developers can readily develop their software to fit within the MS Windows
deployment model).  Heck, you can probably even go and test your application
for free on a Windows cluster at Microsoft.  They used to provide the Jolt
cola while you were at the facility testing for free as well, and may still
well do.

Qualitatively, managing 1000 computers (particularly with identical
configurations) under Windows is probably not much more difficult than doing
it under Linux. In both cases, you're going to need some training and/or
experience to make it work.

> which is why sysadmins get paid and are worth a very decent salary.

In both the Windows and *nix world, this is true.


> I don't know about "management consoles", though.  Again, this sounds
> WinXX-ish -- you're hoping for something to hide all the detail of
> several distributions, packaging systems, software installation tools,
> and operating systems and still make them all work transparently for you
> without your needing to know what they are doing.
> Not in this Universe, at least not unless you pay a real expert a lot of
> money (for their software) and are willing to live with something that
> doesn't work horribly well at best anyway.  Your best bet is to learn
> the specific systems you're working with well enough to make them dance
> through hoops, and not to rely on interfaces that are very expensive to
> maintain (and which to my experience NEVER work anyway).

Modern, enterprise scale Windows installations do this just as well as
Linux, to a first order.   Don't judge the large scale management
capabilities of Windows by the consumer Windows experience.  And, as far as
cost goes, I suspect that configuration and software management costs for
large Windows installations are not much different than for *nix. Both
require training, expertise, etc.  Sure, for Linux, the actual software is
free, but that's a small fraction of the $100K/yr you're paying to folks to
use the software.

Microsoft is VERY aware of where their bread is buttered, and has worked
VERY hard to make sure that managing 1000 Windows desktops (or server farms)
in a corporate enviroment isn't a whole lot more difficult or expensive than
managing 1000 Linux boxes.  The last thing MS wants to hear from a Fortune
500 CIO is that they are dumping Windows for Linux because of the management
costs.  As you point out, the desktop "office productivity" applications are
typically just as good under Linux as under Windows.  It's a very different
model from the consumer world, where once you've bought the heavily
discounted box with the manufacturer OEM install of the OS, you're really on
your own.

In the cluster arena, things are different yet. Typically, people want pedal
to the metal speed, they don't give a rat's fuzzy behind for the office
productivity tools, and they're going to write all their production code
themselves, so they want something that is conceptually simple to work with
(OS interface wise), they generally have no need for sophisticated digital
rights management and revenue schemes, etc.

>     rgb
> > Regards,
> > Rajiv
> Robert G. Brown                        http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
> Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
> Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
> Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu
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