[Beowulf] Redmond is at it, again

Laurence Liew laurenceliew at yahoo.com.sg
Wed Jun 2 16:36:12 PDT 2004


Thanks for the comments, and I think I from the discussion, we can 
separate the issue into 4 distinct issues:

(1) providing the OS distribution and updates

(2) providing a cluster toolkit which makes #1 into a working cluster, 
ie cluster management tool, mpich, pvm, blas, scalapack etc (and updates)

(3) OS support

(4) cluster support

For (1),  for experienced cluster admins, paying per node price does not 
make sense, as they can take ONE copy from a mirror (free or paid) and 
duplicate it to hundreds and thousand of nodes. So in this scenario, the 
price point is basically one copy (per year).

For (2), some (and there are a lot of less capable sys admins out there) 
would be willingly to pay for an easier way to do (1) above.

For (3), it is assumed that in a university setting, the sysadmin would 
be linux OS aware and can support himself. This is not really true in 
some cases. We do get support calls like "how to setup printing from the 

For (4), most linux sysadmins who manages a cluster is not a cluster 
admin, and he cannot answer questions like "how come my mpi code does 
not work", "why is SGE not able to run my job". Typically we have to 
answer those questions on behalf of the sysadmins. (Of course we do have 
syadmins that learn quickly and become self-supporting and less reliant 
on us - but not always).

As clearly articulated by RGB, providing OS distros and updates should 
be minimal costs as most of the costs has been borned by others. - I Agree.

And a cluster distro with some value add like integrated cluster 
management tools, mpich, blas, scalapack... again a small fee is 
acceptable for the work done in integrating and packaging it.

So I guess for cluster vendors out there what the community would like 
to see in any cluster distro pricing is:

a) low per unit costs if any (say $10-$20/node) for a cluster distro 
WITH VALUE ADDED, OR a one time annual site license for unlimited 
distritbutions within the campus

b) separate out the support charges, so that experienced sysadmins can 
pay less or opt to pay for support (and finger pointing), and not bundle 
the support into the per node price.


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