[Beowulf] SGI to offer Windows on clusters

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Mon Jan 22 21:44:23 PST 2007

Ryan Waite wrote:
> I know some of you aren't, um, tolerant of Microsoft for various reasons
> but I thought I'd clear up a couple errors in some of the posts. If you
> hate Microsoft at least you now have an email address for when you're
> feeling grumpy.

As I now have a chance for a response, I think it is warranted.

Intolerance?  No.  Suspicious of ulterior motives?  Hmmm.  Why would 
that be?

There are Microsoft tools you won't get from me without prying from my 
cold dead fingers.  There are Microsoft tools that are extraordinarily 
painful to use/deploy, that don't play well with the mainstream 
currently in use tools.  There are Microsoft tools with a, well, less 
than stellar security record or model.

> Pricing
> Retail pricing for Windows Server is about $750. Retail pricing for
> Compute Cluster Server (CCS) is around $470. Most users will get the
> product through either an OEM or a volume licensing agreement. In both
> cases they pay less than retail. Academic users can purchase CCS for
> less than $100.

Lets be clear about this.  The pricing (470, 100, ...) is *per node* 
correct?  If it is not *per node* and is *per cluster* this is an 
interesting scenario, and somewhat at odds with what people have been 
telling me over the last several months.

> CCS is comprised of two CDs. The first is Windows Server. The second CD
> contains the clustering tools. The second CD has three major features:
> 1) a job scheduler, 2) systems management tools, and 3) Microsoft's MPI
> stack. The majority of HPC systems sold are small (less than 256 nodes)
> and we've designed for those customers. So, users get an OS, job
> scheduler, management package, and MPI stack for < $500.

*per node* or *per cluster*

> Our MPI stack is based on MPICH2 but we've made performance and security
> enhancements. The folks at ANL are very talented UNIX developers but
> Windows is more efficient using async overlapped I/O. We've made other,
> similar changes to our stack and we're providing those changes back to
> ANL for incorporation in future MPICH stacks. We're also the first group
> at Microsoft making these kinds of sizable contributions back to the
> open source community.

This is good.  I am glad to hear this.

As others have noted, the aggressive marketing campaign is a bit over 
the top.  Linux clusters have been "mainstream" and well integrated into 
corporate worlds for a while.  This could explain for example that the 
market has been experiencing explosive growth long before Microsoft ever 
entered it.

Be that as it may, I believe that there are specific areas where it 
would be quite valuable to have Microsoft work, and tap into the huge 
and rapidly growing market.  The replacement strategy represents a risk 
to users IMO if Microsoft tires of this (relatively small for them) 
market, and decides "no more".  There are other areas within HPC where a 
strong Microsoft presence would be good, in terms of interoperability, 
cross platform scripting/development, interface.  Not VBA everywhere. 
Mono with hooks to enable us to bind our languages in.

You might take pains to notice that some of us who are vocal critics of 
your companies actions and products, are also vocal critics of your 
competition.  I have been decrying the MPI binary interface issue on 
Linux for a long time.  This impedes progress IMO.  I have praised the 
DLL approach where one ABI for MPI would be supported (not one chip/os 
ABI, but application level ABI).  You might note that some of us heap 
appropriate scorn upon the poor choices of some Linux vendors (not 
necessarily the ones who sign deals with you).

> Thanks,
> Ryan Waite
> Group Program Manager, HPC
> Microsoft

As I said, there are Microsoft products that we will not stop using.

I personally would like to see some of them on Linux.  And I would pay 
for them on Linux.  As I am sure others would as well.  I pay for 
products that enable me to run them on Linux.  I pay for the additional 
license so that I legally can run them on Linux.

Now why would that be, if I were intolerant of Microsoft and their 
products?  Why would I be working hard to get the specific tools (Excel, 
Powerpoint, and to an extent, Word) available to me on this platform?

I wonder.

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 734 786 8452
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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