[Beowulf] Win64 Clusters!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrew M.A. Cater amacater at galactic.demon.co.uk
Mon Apr 9 13:51:59 PDT 2007

On Mon, Apr 09, 2007 at 07:00:27PM +0100, John Hearns wrote:
> Peter St. John wrote:
> >
> > 
> >MS contributed marketing. That's it. That's enough.
> > 
> I disagree, strangely enough.
> Bob Brown has mentioned in this thread that the 'tipping point' for him 
> came with the PII or PIV when code ran faster than big RISC machines.
> I'll throw into the mix that nearly all 'big science' applications at 
> the time ran on VMS or mainframe OSes, or supercomputers (Cray or CDC).
> At the time, Unix was seen by scientists as an OS for longhairs and 
> computer science types.

Late model Crays now run Linux or cut down versions thereof :) I regard 
a Cray much as I do a nuclear reactor. What goes on in the middle is 
frighteningly fast and potentially dangerous to hang around or think of 
too much, but, in the same way that the reactor has lead and 16 feet of 
concrete between you and hot stuff, the Cray I/O is _so_ bad by 
comparison to its internals that you're tolerably well insulated :) 
Also, the number of expert Cray admins is very small, their knowledge is 
specialist and recherche and you literally can't do without them and 
their insider knowledge when there are any problems - sounds very like a 
nuclear reactor admin team :)

> Along comes the Intel i386 architecture, and just as importantly for 
> scientific computing, the DEC Alpha. Scientists see a big 
> price/performance gain with the Alpha architecture.

I found an Alpha workstation under a desk once and was able to borrow it 
for home use for a while - it had been sat unused for some years because 
people were concerned during Y2K and had disconnected it from the 

Nicest machine I've used - but a bugger to get parts for :) 
DECs were bulletproof, I swear: the only thing I've ever lifted that was 
comparable was an RCA AR88D receiver. [Ex WWII Lend Lease and v. heavy]. 

> But what did they both run - Windows NT. And remember that NT was 
> developed by the man hired by Microsoft from DEC.
> So at one point in history there was a prospect of having a unified OS 
> running on everything from the desktop (i386) through to the Alpha 
> powered job farms to the MIPS powered big SMP machines.
> Purely personal opinion, but I believe that Microsoft missed a big trick 
> by dropping Alpha support for NT.

No, it was never pitched at the right market. NT 3.1 or so was too early 
to do anything useful with 64 bits.

> The other tipping point came with SunOS/Solaris.
> A C compiler came bundled with SunOS (I'm not sure of my facts here, but 
> as I recall free for academic use). With the switch to Solaris the 
> compiler became a paid-for extra. In my experience, it caused the group 
> I Was working with to look seriously at the Gnu C compiler for the first 
> time, and with it the rest of the GNU tools.

I have a colleague who's still swearing at that one whenever he 
recalls it :)  One of my first comments via his blog to Ian Murdock when 
he joined Sun was that he should make it easy to install a full GNU 
toolchain on all versions of Solaris. Luckily, when I last did this, 
I had an earlier version of GCC to fall back on - but the process of 
building GCC 4.01 on Solaris, though very instructive, was still 
bondage and discipline. 

[You know it's bad when you have to build newer versions of 
tar, gzip and sed just to be able to deal with the GNU source code 
tarball :) ]

In my case, the tipping point to Unix-like OS's came when I realised 
that I couldn't easily get hold of AT&T kit, couldn't find someone who 
would sell me Coherent - and a copy of one of the PC magazines had a cut 
down Slackware on it in 1994 :) A day later and I had it installed - and the 
rest is relative history.

>      John Hearns

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