[Beowulf] [OT] MPI-haters

Prentice Bisbal prentice.bisbal at rutgers.edu
Fri Mar 11 08:21:14 PST 2016


Excellent post! I'm glad you switched out of lurker mode to contribute, 
and while I have your attention, I'm still waiting for you to e-mail me 
that video of me riding the mechanical bull at SC08's closing reception 
in Austin. ;)

Everything you say is 100% correct, but I don't think that really 
explains the low traffic on this list. I joined this list in late 2007 
or early 2008. In my time on the list, I don't remember many 
nuts-and-bolts questions about PXE, MPI, etc. Sure, they came up, but I 
remember most of the discussions about were about more general HPC 
topics: The design of IBM's Roadrunner system, industry news , AMD or 
Intel's latest processors, the latest gee-whiz gizmo from vendor X, etc.


On 03/10/2016 07:27 PM, Brian Dobbins wrote:
> I like to think that RGB can be 'summoned' by mentioning his name a 
> few times in a thread... and then magically he appears, waxing 
> poetically about some interesting area of Beowulfry / HPC, and then 
> vanishes in a puff of equations.
> So that I'm actually contributing something meaningful and not 
> wistfully remembering the past, I'll add that I think the low traffic 
> is simply because /building/ systems has become much easier - there's 
> plenty of open-source or proprietary tools if you're inclined to do it 
> yourself, and plenty of vendors who'll ensure you don't need to.  
> Clearly there's been a large increase in HPC usage over the years, but 
> the vast majority of those systems (>98%?) are ones that operate at a 
> scale where not /much/ needs to be 'figured out' - eg, a flat network 
> topology so you don't need to ensure hop-aware node selection for 
> jobs, parallel file systems that 'work' and give improvement without 
> requiring you to recompile a kernel, rip your hair out, etc.
> As a corollary to this, years ago most places were still 
> 'experimenting' with clusters - at universities, they were often run 
> by a research group or a department, tasked to a narrow area, and 
> serving a small handful of users.  That meant that tinkering with them 
> was very doable - you want to take the 12-node cluster down for two 
> hours to try a new network driver that might help your QCD code via 
> better latency?  Go for it!  Now, clusters are no longer an 
> 'engineering project' by a handful of grad students or linux geeks, 
> they're a fundamental, central resource for research communities, and 
> they're larger, serving many more users, and often managed by 
> dedicated teams of IT staff.  When you tried to tinker with that 
> network driver six years ago it wasn't a problem.  But now you want 
> the IT department that's running a production cluster 'appliance' to 
> give you root access to try some beta driver to get a few percentage 
> faster results on their 500-node cluster?  Well, I'm going to go out 
> on a limb and label that as 'unlikely'.  ;)
> In short, I think the environment we operate under has changed 
> considerably, leading to less traffic about the nuts and bolts of 
> clusters -
> if you no longer need to wrestle with your PXE boot configuration 
> files because some distribution or tool handles that all for you, you 
> no longer need to post your frustrations and questions to the list for 
> help, right?  (I say that because I think I did it once..)  At the 
> same time, the /usage/ landscape has diversified quite a bit - so 
> fewer people know as much about the whole field, and thus certain 
> topics garner fewer comments.
> All in all, though, it's a list with some incredibly experienced 
> people -- maybe it's worth thinking about a better way to use this 
> list as a resource?  For example, instead of it just being a 'How do I 
> do <X>?" thing, perhaps once a month someone (*cough*Chris 
> Samuel*cough*) gets a volunteer to write a post about their recent 
> challenges/experiences/etc.? Just an idea; I know I rarely post 
> questions here, yet when I hear a talk about something, I always have 
> a bunch of thoughts about it.  Thoughts?
> Cheers,
>   - Brian
> On Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 11:48 AM, Prentice Bisbal 
> <prentice.bisbal at rutgers.edu <mailto:prentice.bisbal at rutgers.edu>> wrote:
>     On 03/10/2016 01:34 PM, Jeff Becker wrote:
>         On 03/10/2016 10:32 AM, Prentice Bisbal wrote:
>             This list used to get A LOT more traffic. Not sure what
>             happened over the past few years. I miss the witty banter
>             and information I used to get from all that traffic, but I
>             definitely don't miss Vincent.
>         :-)
>     It just occurred to me that if you know who Vincent or RGB is,
>     you're probably an old-timer on this list now.
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