Issues with Diverse Software and User Bases (was Re: [Beowulf] hpl size problem)

Chris Samuel csamuel at
Tue Oct 4 16:48:02 PDT 2005

On Tue, 4 Oct 2005 11:01 pm, Joe Landman wrote:

> If you need to have 14 different mpich, then you need to make sure your
> administrative and installation processes can handle it.

Indeed. All users get a sensible default, the version of MPICH that we 
consider best for the cluster (e.g. Intel compilers + Myrinet for our IA32 
cluster, IBM compilers + Myrinet on our Power5 cluster).

Those who have code that absolutely must use GCC or P4 for whatever reason 
(usually portability testing or they've inherited code that they need to use) 
are often capable enough to know how to alter their .bash_profile to source 
the appropriate alternative script, or we help them out.

> In short this is a real problem for large shared computing resource
> facilities with lots of users of varying code requirements, that often
> are beyond the initial scope of deployment and system build.

Yup, we've got over 400 different users (growing daily) from 7 universities 
working in many many different disciplines (HEP, chemistry, maths, economics, 
engineering, molecular modelling, astro, etc..) with a vast range of 
experience from "what do you mean I have to type?" to "I hack on Linux kernel 
modules in my spare time".

Our job is to support them all and get them productive on the systems so they 
can finish that paper/thesis/degree/assignment.

Installing & supporting new versions of MPICH and other free software packages 
is usually fairly easy, it's the commercial software that we find is where 
the real pain lies.

I have one commercial source package at the moment where the maintainer won't 
even permit us to install it centrally and use UNIX groups to restrict access 
to the licensed users, they insist we must build it *as that user* somewhere 
in their home directory. For each licensed user. Now that's what I call ugly. 
But we have an obligation to those users to try and make it work.

 Christopher Samuel - (03)9925 4751 - VPAC Deputy Systems Manager
 Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing
 Bldg 91, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton South, VIC 3053, Australia

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