[Beowulf] best linux distribution

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Mon Oct 8 12:59:25 PDT 2007

Buccaneer for Hire. wrote:

> *Sigh*  The best distro is the one that gets the most
> of YOUR work done in a given amount of time.

... without you pulling out your remaining hair (for we the folicly 
challenged/diminshed) in order to be able to start doing your work in 
the first place.

Distributions are just big collections of stuff.  Some collections are 
better built/constructed than others.  Some are just piss-poor, and 
require you to rebuild sections of the infrastructure in order to 
properly rebuild packages to be useful.  Some come with everything 
including the kitchen sink.

The distros I like the most for cluster building are OpenSuSE, Fedora, 
and Ubuntu.  This tends to change over time.  All have modern kernels, 
and despite efforts to the contrary on the part of some package builders 
(see if this sounds familiar "we only support distro X"), stuff just 
mostly works on them without significant pain.  Well, some minor nits 
(4k stacks hrrumph!), but these distros tend to be pretty good (yeah, I 
do like Fedora).

The issue when you are building the cluster is whether or not your 
hardware (nice, shiny, new) does in fact support the distro you would 
like to use.  Chances are, if you are using "older" more established 
technology on the HW side, you likely have a reasonable shot of getting 
more conservative distros to be supported (RHEL/Centos, SuSE, ...) to work.

There are other issues, some of which are biting people now on other 
lists, whereby some of the distro's choices come back to haunt them with 
a fury.  Such as supporting ext3 as their advanced file system.  Doesn't 
work well when you have storage units larger than ext3's maximum file 
system size, or files larger than ext3 can handle.  RHEL is famous for 
this, if you need to use large disks or large files, they have 
effectively precluded using that distro.  You can use Fedora, with xfs 
and jfs and not run into this issue, though there are others (4k stacks, 
SELinux, cough cough!) that can make a grown distro user cry.  Luckily, 
those issues are all solvable.

At the end of the day, its about which pile-o-packages you want, and 
which will get you running as quickly as possible with the minimum pain 
possible.  This is an important aspect, which often gets lost in the 

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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