[Beowulf] best linux distribution

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Mon Oct 8 10:43:08 PDT 2007

On Mon, 8 Oct 2007, Mark Hahn wrote:

>>> Does any one use Centos on Beowulf nodes?  Of course Centos is really just 
>>> Redhat, but many people prefer it for use on servers.
>> We have several sites using Scientific Linux, which is along the same lines 
>> as CentOS.
> I was surprised how very much like centos - I had the impression
> SL was more of a stable-means-versions-from-5-years-ago distro,
> but it appears to be mostly a repackaging of RHEL, and reasonably
> up-to-date.  from a quick glance at the SL-5.0 readme, the number
> of customizations is quite small, so I do wonder what the point is.
> (_not_ meant as a criticism!).

You've got me.  At one time, it was a good way to get Centos plus a
build of cernlib (of use to high energy physicists) plus a little of
this and that.  Nowadays, pretty much all RPM-based development goes
into Fedora and migrates back into RHEL and thence to Centos and SL.
Since Fedora is anywhere from 0 to 2 years ahead of the current
RHEL/Centos snap -- well, at this point cernlib is in F7 ready to roll,
and I'd bet the same is true of just about any of the other

I think the main issues have already been laid out.  RHEL/Centos are
good where vendors require "binary compatibility" on closed source
software, as the standard of said binary compatibility.  It is bad where
library currency and support for the latest hardware and having the
latest software tools (including compilers, GUI tools, and so on) are an
issue.  The "cost" of Fedora's rapid development cycle turns out to have
been seriously overestimated and it is pretty easy for even a single
sysadmin in charge of a large cluster to ride the fedora wave and
upgrade every year or so.  Its instability has been overestimated as
well -- by simply delaying adoption for the first 3 months or so post
the release you plan to upgrade to you give plenty of time for most of
the bugs to be squashed by the early implementers (and that's an issue
for Centos/RHEL as well, as they are typically "identical" to Fedora
every couple of years, bugs and all).

Fedora 7 with modest enhancements appears to have some 8500 packages.
Far short of Debian, but plenty big enough to include just about all
mainstream useful packages for any cluster or LAN.


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Robert G. Brown
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
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