[Beowulf] How Can Microsoft's HPC Server Succeed?

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Apr 4 09:57:09 PDT 2008

At 07:31 AM 4/4/2008, Mehmet Suzen wrote:
>On Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 3:11 PM, Jim Lux <james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov> wrote:
> > > It is VERY important to be clear about one point. This argument must
> > > NOT imply that using proprietary software to built a cluster does not
> > > require any
> > > work-force (someone) or no training needed to operate it. At the end  of
> > the day
> > > building a cluster is a  technological business,  you  need to hire
> > > someone or a monkey in order to click on buttons for installation or
> > > maintenance.
> > >
> >
> >  But, when you say "build and maintain" a cluster, do you mean separately
> > ordering all the machines, routers, cables, racking, and 
> installing them and
> > getting them working (and then the followon maintenance of installing new
> > versions of software from the vendors, cleaning air filters)...
> >
>No, I was implying software related components of a cluster.
> >  At this level, you're pretty OS-independent.  It's only when you need to
> > start "developing" new software for this putative small cluster that the
> > environment becomes really important.
> >
> >  It's pretty much a given that any sort of *commercial* cluster
> > distribution, whether shrink wrap from Redmond or carefully crafted by one
> > of the cluster vendors on this list will come with some reasonable set of
> > tools to do things like reboot, manage jobs, etc.  If the user 
> interface for
> > those tools resembles the user interface that your would-be admin is
> > familiar with (e.g. Microsoft Management Console, etc.) then all is good.
> >
>Still, this doesn't mean that cluster build on proprietary software
>needs less software maintenance then a FOSS system.
>The idea that using a FOSS software needs more technical knowledge
>and human resources is simply a myth.

Depends on what you pay for.  A high quality proprietary solution 
might well need less maintenance than FOSS.  You'd pay for it, 
too.  It's a tradeoff.. pay for a third party to build in the smarts 
or pay for your inhouse person to do the operation. This is nothing 
unique.. Consider the difference between a Bridgeport mill with a 
machinist standing in front of it spinning the knobs reading a 
drawing and a CNC mill.  Most machine shops don't go in and modify 
the gear trains in the CNC.. they accept what it is, and fool with 
the system at a different level (G-code programming, for instance).

If you're buying a million dollar piece of test equipment, and it 
needs a small cluster built in, there's no reason why the buyer 
should know or care what the OS is inside the cluster.  It's just 
part of the equipment, and it's the equipment builder's 
decision.  This is a pretty common model..  I'll bet that a lot of 
Point-Of-Sale systems in restaurants are built on Windows, but 
relatively few restaurants have a on-staff Windows Admin.  The 
restaurant has paid (well) to have a turnkey system that doesn't 
require a specialist administrator.

As far as needing more or less knowledge or HR, it's really more 
application dependent than OS dependent.  If you're a business with 
MS Windows throughout (i.e. the vast majority), it's much more likely that
a) you'll have someone already on staff who knows Windows and can 
have an "additional duty" that's not too different from what they do
b) you have a bigger pool to choose from if you have to hire a new person.

Essentially, I guess, in these scenarios, the end customer isn't 
"building" a cluster.  that's done by someone else.  All the customer 
does is "operate" and that's a very different sort of need.

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