[Beowulf] MS HPC... Oh dear...

J.A.Delcorso at larc.nasa.gov J.A.Delcorso at larc.nasa.gov
Mon Jun 12 09:15:05 PDT 2006


 For the most part I agree with a lot of what you've put out on the 
Beowulf list, but this last response kind of struck a cord.  I'm
positive you have much more experience in these matters, so if I'm 
way off in my comments please feel free to correct me.

> Remember also that the "advantages" of being able to run MS-only are
> largely illusory, since MCSEs are largely clueless about advanced
> networking and parallel computation and parallel scaling and MPI and...

Dangerous over-generalization... Why are all folks who *might* maintain
a *chuckle* Windows cluster immediately MCSEs?  We've got a fairly large
cohort of *nix admins who've developed and support our beowulfs.  They
are generally also the folks who maintain our MS pc's at the same time.
These are also the folks tasked with looking into these (MS cluster) 
'new' type of systems.

They _are_ very bright and know their stuff...  The problem isn't the
admins in this case, it's the perception from 'on high' that MS is 
the best & only operating system (or at least the one that management
uses & logically if they use it we should all use it... or some such

> so WinXX clusters will face precisely the same support and programming
> challenges that Linux clusters face without the rather huge base of
> coders, the beowulf list for distributed (free) support, a wide
> selection of consultants and turnkey vendors, magazine columns and
> websites such as the Monkey.  This is an "if we build it, they will
> come" moment for MS.

Agreed... the problem IMHO is that when MS puts out something like this
the immediate perception is that there is support and (though this might
be a dangerous over generalization) companies developing commercial
applications tend to fall in line behind the idea... which leads to the 
snowball effect...  So yes, they will face the same support and 
programming challenges, but they won't "appear" to be challenges because 
(going back to perception) Microsoft is putting it's weight behind
the development.  I don't doubt that within a year we will see some 
kind of "Microsoft Visual Studio Professional Parallel Programming" 
software out on the market (if it's not already).  There will be a big
to-do about it, and it will get media attention, which of course gets
back to the folks who make decisions 'on high', and now we're back in
the cycle of MS...

> Compared to linux -- the entire OS and all
> these apps were FREE, right?  One can install an entire cluster for the
> cost of setting up a PXE server/repo, and even boot and run the whole
> thing diskless, in as little as one day.  

Preaching to the choir...  *KEEP PREACHING, the beer is on it's way*

> Only people who really don't
> give a rodent's furry behind about money will be willing to spend a ton
> of money for a product where it takes days for your cluster-ignorant
> MCSEs just to figure out the licensing arrangements for the nodes (and
> to learn what a node IS).

Again... dangerous over generalization IMHO.  Perception will be something
closer to "hrm... $8,000 and less headache with MS than with going to 
a linux system... It's worth it."

> So IMO the MS move is targeted at a very carefully specified market,
> with little or no interest or hope of expanding beyond that market.

I remember a couple years back when folks were saying that MS has little
or no interest in expanding into the cluster market... yet here they 
are knocking on the door.

> to buy it, although they could lose money on this for years and still
> fund it just to be able to claim market presence and not think twice
> about it.  

Yeah, and as I alluded earlier... Perception for many is reality.  
Given enough time people will believe that MS is a viable solution, 
just a matter of biding their time and waiting...

Looking into my crystal ball it doesn't take a genuis to see this.
MS will wise up eventually, and change their marketing strategy so 
that the cost of the parallel environment is negligible, and the 
real money will be in the development tools.  At that point (I'm 
assuming here) MS will have a couple applications running they 
they'll point to as examples of how parallel systems work with 
MS and "oh look, you can use MS Office also! Isn't that fun?!".
Again, pushing the perception...

> maybe they'll get some gaming companies to use
> their platform to manage multitasking on a dual-core dual-cpu box to
> improve game performance or the like (again on a shrink-wrap basis).  

UGH... lets hope not... I vaguely remember that the gaming industry
was a fairly key player in the past, pushing both hardware and software
solutions.  Yet another 'advantage' of MS clustering if they get their
hooks into the gaming industry... a bunch of kids wanting to develop
parallel gaming applications... talk about your snowball effects if that
works out.

> So, naaaaa, not likely to be a popular development platform for real
> researcher's writing their own code or using open source code.
> Commercial only.

I wish that were true.  The reality seems to be somewhat different than
what makes logical sense.

Any more, the folks coming out of college have virtually no *nix 
experience.  Universities are pushing Windows OS and development
like there's no tomorrow.  While there are many instances of universities
pushing equally hard on *nix systems, the vast majority of engineers/CS
folks that we're seeing out of college are MS developers.  
Personally I've been through more Windows vs Linux benefits/drawback 
discussions with these folks in the last year than in the previous 
5; and I only see the trend getting worse.  The main problem is that 
when these folks talk, they have no understanding of what *nix is 
because they've never used it, never seen it, and have been spoon 
fed the MS mantra for years in college, nor do they care to learn... 
to make matters worse, these are the folks who are growing in number 
around me, and what I'm seeing in many of the companies we work with.  
These folks *DO* influence decisions, even if they're more 'costly' 
decisions.  The arguement is simple and to managment, a little more 
money to make life easier is worth it (remember _perception_ here).

Imagine if MS wises up and starts providing their cluster solution
to the same colleges that are pushing the MS development environments... 

Here, perception is reality (sadly enough), and more recently I've 
been required to switch to Windows systems because it fits into the
powerpoint-lifestyle of the environment. (required == mandated)

Just my 2cents...


More information about the Beowulf mailing list