[Beowulf] A press release

Tim Cutts tjrc at sanger.ac.uk
Tue Jul 1 22:37:19 PDT 2008

On 1 Jul 2008, at 8:53 pm, Joe Landman wrote:

>> the couple debian people I know tend to have more ideological motives
> Yeah ... can't escape this.

Indeed.  Ubuntu is slightly more pragmatic than Debian, as far as the  
ideological stuff goes.

>  I like some of the elements of Ubuntu/Debian better than I do RHEL  
> (the network configuration in Debian is IMO sane, while in RHEL/ 
> Centos/SuSE it is not).  There are some aspects that are worse (no / 
> etc/profile.d ... so I add that back in by hand ).

Here, our clusters all run Debian, but we also have RHAS and SLES  
around when support matrices demand it (Oracle, mainly).

I'd agree that fundamentally it's a case of what you're used to.  We  
stopped using Red Hat widely about four years ago, and the reasons  
(which are probably not valid any more) were:

1)  Not all userland programs were 64-bit file aware.
2)  There were certain features which we just couldn't get to work  
properly on RHAS - a prime example being multipath SAN access.  It  
"just worked" on Debian.
3)  Smooth upgrades from one major release to the next without having  
to reinstall.  While this is probably not important for beowulf nodes,  
it is for more complex servers.

I still prefer Debian's package management system, but that's probably  
because I'm used to it, rather than it inherently being superior.   
yast2 can do pretty much everything that aptitude does, although I  
think aptitude is more amenable to automation through cfengine and the  
like.  There are some very powerful little parts of the packaging  
system, like dpkg-divert, which allows you to replace a file from a  
package with your own, in such a way that it will not be overwritten  
the next time the package is upgraded.  For those of us that need to  
customise our systems that sort of thing is very useful, and saves a  
lot of work down the line.

>> (which I do NOT impugn, except that I am personally more swayed by  
>> practical, concrete reasons.)
> Building and deploying updated/correct kernels with Ubuntu/Debian is  
> far easier (the build is much easier/saner) than with SuSE,  
> RHEL, ...  From a pragmatic view, this is what why we have a slight  
> preference for that.

I'd agree with that.  Using make-kpkg to build a custom kernel .deb  
which you can then easily deploy to all your machines is a real boon.

At the end of the day, people should use what they're comfortable with.

I don't necessarily buy the support argument; there are some companies  
(Platform, for example) who will support you whichever distro you use;  
all they care about is what kernel version and C library version  
you're running.  I like this attitude and I wish it was more  
widespread amongst proprietary software vendors.


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