[Beowulf] Re: MS Cray

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Sep 17 15:15:22 PDT 2008

On Wed, 17 Sep 2008, Lux, James P wrote:

> 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.

Sure, but anyone on this list who has ever run a Linux based client
server desktop LAN (which I have, off and on, for around 12 years now,
with Unix LANs in general now up to around 22 years) knows that Linux
beats MS hands down, no questions asked, go home boys on this PROVIDED
ONLY that you choose your hardware sensibly.  Linux approaches the
theoretical limits of management scalability -- install your system by
making a single table entry and turning it on (having kindly asked the
vendor to preset the BIOS to boot via DHCP).  Then forget it.  It
configures up with all user account space set up and ready to roll.  It
automatically updates itself.  It is far more secure out of the box than
any version of Windows I've ever heard of, and the updates actually
release fixes for critical problems in LESS than six months, usually.

It does require somebody with perhaps more native intelligence than your
typical MCSE -- not to dis on MCSEs, but there it is -- to set this up,
but once set up (which is not that difficult) it takes VERY little time
to actually run.  Most Linux admins I know are limited in their work by
the frequency of HARDWARE problems, not software, on a background of
user support.  With MS, it tends to be the other way around -- one
spends far more time supporting, tweaking, fixing, rebooting the
software, with about the SAME (or a bit more) user support, and with of
course the same base hardware support.  So obviously, you can do a lot
fewer systems.

I don't know that I agree about the application richness of Win compared
to Lin anymore.  Lin out of the box comes with far more stuff installed
or immediately available than any Win system, and there is a high cost
to even achieving approximate parity with Lin on the big stuff, --
Office, Web etc.  And one can turn a Linux desktop into a Linux server
by going "Poof!  You're a server!"  For free.  In a matter of five
minutes, at any time.  yum install apache, plus a bit of this and that.
Been there, done that, totally casually as I decide that I do want my
current laptop to have a development webserver.  My sister works in a
serious software devel shop with lots of servers and mainframes and all
(old legacy app stuff) and she is constantly amazed that my laptop is
effortlessly more powerful and better equipped to do ALL the jobs of
both developer and server than most of the hardware and software she
works on and with.

Windows still rules with games.  Windows definitely still rules with
certain "mission critical applications" that only run on Windows
(although they aren't EVERYBODY'S mission critical applications).  But
for ordinary daily desktop usage in a business setting, Win has long
since fallen BEHIND Lin, with even its edge in hardware drivers and
support steadily dwindling.

And yeah, then there is programming and development and HPC.  Here Linux
continues to reign more or less unchallenged, and with the exception of
commercial applications with narrowly targeted but lucrative markets, I
expect that it will remain so.


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

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