[Beowulf] Re: MS Cray

Lux, James P james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Sep 17 13:27:55 PDT 2008

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joe Landman [mailto:landman at scalableinformatics.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 12:54 PM
> To: Robert G. Brown
> Cc: David Mathog; beowulf at beowulf.org; Lux, James P
> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Re: MS Cray
> Robert G. Brown wrote:
> > The real question is why an admin-rich environment with
> lots of full
> > time admins would ever buy into such a deal.  If you've got a full
> > time admin ANYWAY, paying $150/month for support on top of this
> > (beyond the cost of the hardware is just insane.
> Have you ever administered a lab full of these units?  You
> need as much help as you can get to administer the windows
> machines.  Sadly, while claims of there being more windows
> admins are true (thats not the sad
> part) you need (far) more to administer fewer windows
> machines than the fewer admins needed for more Linux machines
> (that is the sad part).
> We have seen 2 full time admins handle 4000+ Linux machines
> with time to develop software to make their lives easier
> (Incyte), as compared to seeing 10 windows admins struggle to
> keep 100 machines each up to date.

I think part of the problem in the Windows world is the incredible diversity of applications (by which I include websites with significant client side processing) that wind up being run on them. Rich growth medium, lots of spontaneous mutations.

When you get to large desktop rollouts, Windows can have fairly low admin overhead, but it's done by restricting flexibility (e.g. SMS, boot from the network, etc.) to reduce the nutritional value of the growth medium.  If everyone boots the same image from the net, applying a patch to 10,000 computers is trivial.  While such an environment would probably make everyone on this list exceedingly unhappy (I could guarantee there's no compiler of any kind in it..you might get a JRE, and edit your source code in MSWord), it would (and does) serve a huge number of folks in the business world perfectly well.

Windows in a development intensive, HPC environment, is going to be admin expensive.


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