[Beowulf] SC05 blogs and observations

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Nov 23 12:49:34 PST 2005

At 10:05 AM 11/23/2005, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>On Wed, 23 Nov 2005, Jim Lux wrote:
>That's where things get all wanky and scary for MS.  One of their major
>selling points is that MS is "professionally manageable", but they are
>dealing with clients that have BEEN through the Death of the Mainframe,
>which happened in spite of IBM telling all its clients about the
>wonderful benefits of central management and professional grade
>software.  They know that computer vendors lie.  In actual fact,
>Microsoft is not terribly CB advantageous in seats per FTE, seats per
>server (and server license), cost per seat, MANAGEMENT cost per seat,
>maintenance cost per seat.  It is expensive and requires a lot of well
>trained people to run it to make it work at the enterprise level, and
>when it DOES work it crashes all the time (at least in our labs here).

I am aware of at least two large scale (>1000 desktop) Windows environments 
where the desktops are externally managed, and where they are reasonably 
stable (as in, reboots are required only when the monthly Patch Tuesday 
requires a reboot).

Neither does "boot from the net", although MS does actually support that 
these days.
 > It is still not really ready for unmanaged
>desktop use, but MANAGED desktops can cost very, very little per seat
>outside of the hardware and a tiny chunk of the OC of the management
>staff.  Literally hundreds of systems per admin even at the human level,
>one admin per thousands of systems at the software level. PXE, yum, and
>linux are a very scary combination for Microsoft, and tools like
>warewulf threaten to virtualize THE ENTIRE OPERATING SYSTEM.

Only if you can standardize your whole shop on one flavor of Linux: Which 
has been fairly difficult, given the low penetration of Linux overall.. 
it's usually installed by a Linux convert, who is somewhat of a zealot 
about their particular favorite distro.

>Veeerrry verrry scary to MS.  If they OWNED this they'd LOVE it -- they
>could sell MS pay-per-use (boot WinXX today, get billed $0.50).  In a
>competitive environment (boot WinXX today to read your mail and get
>billed $0.50, or boot into a Gnome desktop and read your mail and get
>billed nothing, hmmm) things aren't quite so attractive for them.
>That's why the .NET wars are playing now in a theater near you.

You betcha... google scares MS.

>SO MS may well be forcing its way into the cluster market as part of a
>long term strategy to take any measures necessary, including eating
>losses, to keep linux-based nucleation points out of organizations.
>Consequently it is no longer viable for Microsoft to say "we don't do
>clusters"; they have to be able to provide clusters even if the
>economics of clustering forces them to provide the cluster software at
>very low (for them) margins or even at a loss.  Naturally they'll TRY to
>actually make money from clusters, but it might be more about prestige,
>marketing, and maintaining exclusivity on current Win-homogeneous
>environments than it is about any particular actual clustering market.

I hadn't thought about MS clustering as an inoculation against Linux 
cluster as an organizational virus, but you have a great point.

>None of which will (in my opinion) make any difference in the long run.
>The current round of linux desktops are getting a lot of kudos for being
>very, very usable at the (managed) desktop level.  They are still a
>nightmare at the unmanaged desktop level,

And this is precisely the problem... MS has enough penetration in the home 
market that the average desktop user is familiar enough to get through the 
first level diagnosis (is it plugged in, did it boot, is CapsLock off) to 
reduce the support costs for the corporate MS environment. Nobody calls the 
help desk asking how to copy a file to floppy anymore.

>>But, have to go now.. Next installment for my devil's advocacy:
>>"Why windows based clusters make sense for individual users"
>The answers are, I imagine, the same -- device drivers and GUIs.

Nope.. interoperability with the rest of the corporate world...
Software, file format, security, patch managmeent, etc.

>Then there are licensing issues -- WinXX can't just install, it has to
>check for the RIGHT to be installed, for licenses and keys and such, and
>managing THIS is pretty difficult for a single system install and bound
>to be worse for a cluster install.  The license management issues for
>third party applications.  The INCREDIBLE security implications; a
>cluster turned to Viral Evil and SPAMming makes me shudder.

I would imagine that this is no worse than installing a like number of 
desktop machines.  Desktops are installed these days by "ghosting" an image 
onto the drive.  Mass installs don't have to "phone home" for 
authorization.  The business distribution model for Windows is very, very 
different from the home installation model.. none of this authentication 
stuff.  After all, it's those evil hackers at home who are making the RIAA 
and MPAA nervous, right? (or, more realistically, MS sees a potential 
revenue stream by providing a "secure" distribution channel for 
entertainment content, and they can best demonstrate this to potential 
customers by showing a secure distribution channel for their own stuff.)


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