[Beowulf] SGI to offer Windows on clusters

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Jan 18 14:06:30 PST 2007

At 07:42 AM 1/18/2007, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>On Thu, 18 Jan 2007, Richard Walsh wrote:
>>Ashley Pittman wrote:
>>>On Wed, 2007-01-17 at 08:50 +0100, Mikael Fredriksson wrote
>>>>Yes, it is.  And more so if this cluster/LAN can also utilize som type
>>>>of "MOSIX" system.  This will substatially increase the throughput of
>>>>"standard serial" processes.
>It also isn't the point.  Nobody, and I mean nobody in this universe,
>analyzes and compares WinXX and Linux from a performance point of view.

Well, at least not in a rigorous way.  People compare Win and Linux 
performance all the time, but it's never a real head to head 
comparison with comparable and controlled environments and configurations.

However, that's the whole "benchmarking magic" argument...

Stability is important to sales, especially in a server environment and
>as I previously noted pro-grade systems people can make a WinXX Server
>setup sufficiently stable for production purposes.

And likewise, WinXP on the desktop.  A company with 20,000 WinXP 
desktops cannot tolerate BSODs and mystery hangs on a significant 
fraction of those desktops at any frequency.  When your call center 
operators are being timed to the second, the sysadmin folks know 
INSTANTLY when there are problems.

But, just as in the server application, the configurations are 
rigorously controlled and tested.  It's certainly not the usual home 
computer with umpty-five downloaded widgets, etc.

>Linux remains around the 1% level in US desktop occupancy, and even in
>the pacific rim where its numbers are the best it only makes it to 3% or
>so (the rest are doubtless mostly bootleg WinXX).  The largest monopoly
>ever to exist in the history of the world laughs at these numbers.  On
>the broader server market Linux fares better, but it is still very much
>David against Goliath where David may appear sometimes to be winning,
>but Goliath has yet to be hit in the head with any kind of stone.

More like grains of sand being dribbled about the feet.

>At this point, with massive investment in MS stock on the part of
>corporate retirement and pension accounts, hitting MS in the head with a
>killer stone would probably trigger a nationwide panic or even a
>depression.  It could still happen, but I really expect that killing
>Goliath may take years of nibbling at his heels and not a single blow,
>with Goliath fighting back and changing form all the way to try to avoid
>his fate.

And, bizarre as it may seem, Goliath might change into a service 
provider via webservices running on some sort of serverfarm which 
could conceivably be anything.  Imagine.. paying a nickle per 
document page to use the WebServices version of MSWord with whatever 
browser you care to use.  Hey, we're willing to pay that for a 
photocopier, and it doesn't even do spell checking.

>Basically, MS's cluster product is almost certainly designed to do two
>things.  One is provide them with a credible presence in the cluster
>market not because it is particularly important to them as a profit
>center but because hurting linux and the other unices strengthens their
>position in the general server market in many ways.  They do not want

I think it's also to support the turnkey software vendors who need a 
platform with more compute crunch for their existing Windows 
application.  Think finite element models of one kind or another.  If 
your application costs $50K/seat, a kilobuck or two for an OS isn't a big deal.

> From what I can see, there are various things gradually lowering the
>barrier between linux development and Windows development -- making it
>easier to port Windows code directly to linux with a recompile, making
>it easier to run Windows code directly within linux without a Windows

Mind you, MS does make a moving target here, and not necessarily to 
make it hard to do this, but just because they choose the way they 
want to go for their own interests. Kind of like fleas on a dog that 
decides to roll over.

>   Wine/cedega, vmware, win4lin and others on the one hand,
>cross-architecture development libraries on the other hand.  Microsoft
>has a strong interest in maintaining those barriers and doubtless moves
>things around to keep code porting difficult (compare how easy it is to
>move code between unices to how difficult it is to move between linux
>and MS, and how much expense that adds to the task of maintaining a code
>base in both worlds).

But the difficulty of moving between Windows and *nix compared to 
among *nix is more like the difference between translating between 
German and English vs translating between English dialects.  There's 
common roots, and the grammar is similar, for the former, but the 
latter is mostly a matter of vocabulary and pronounciation.

It is further complicated by the fact that unlike in the 
language/dialect case, the two OSes (and their corresponding 
development models and environments) are both changing, windows more 
rapidly than *nix for the most part.

>So it isn't about performance, it is about presence.  SGI is a big, high
>visibility deal and provides them with FUD-war ammunition, a way to slow
>the bleed of server sites to linux, and which will almost certainly pay
>for itself even if it is little more than a batch queue program with a
>nice GUI and perhaps a STABLE API -- something linux could certainly

Jim Lux 

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