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How Well Does Windows Cluster?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the please...no-more-beowulf-jokes dept.

Microsoft 665

cascadefx asks: "I work for a mid-sized mid-western university. One of our departments has started up a small Beowulf cluster research project that he hopes to grow over time. At the moment, the thing is incredibly weak... but it is running on old hardware and is basically used for dog and pony shows to get more funding and hopefully donations of higher-end systems. It runs Linux and works, it is just not anything to write home about. Here's the problem: my understanding is that an MS rep asked what it would take to get them to switch to a Microsoft cluster. Is this possible? Are there MS clusters that do what Beowulf clusters are capable of? I thought MS clusters were for load balancing, not computation... which is the hoped-for goal of this project. Can the Slashdot crowd offer some advice? If there are MS clusters, comparisons of the capabilities would be welcome." One has to only go as far as Microsoft's site to see its current attempt at clustering, but what is the real story. Have any of you had a chance to pit a Linux Beowulf cluster against one from Microsoft? How did they compare?

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how well does it cluster? (0, Troll)

gray code (323372) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045572)

well, it cluster fucks pretty well...

har har

BSOD!! (4, Funny)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045590)

What do you call a cluster of Windows machines
when they Blue Screen?????

A Cluster Bomb!!!!

Re:BSOD!! (2, Interesting)

zulux (112259) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045672)

What do you call a cluster of Windows machines
when they Blue Screen?????


A Cluster Fuck?

(if you diden't know what it ment, then you woulden't be offended)

The real question (-1, Offtopic)

zzyzx (15139) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045574)

Will a new /. joke start up about if you can make a Microsoft Cluster out of everything?

Re:The real question (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045599)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these...

Fp? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045578)

Shit stupid 20 rule really pisses me off!!!!

first post - no way (0, Offtopic)

mary-wanna (533406) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045579)

FP - woohoo!! BTW - I have played with clustering on windows and linux. The windows was purely load balancing. Beowulf for computation of linguistics was FAR better.

Re:first post - no way (4, Informative)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045641)

The windows was purely load balancing.

From Microsoft's site: "The Computational Clustering Technical Preview (CCTP) toolkit is used for creating and evaluating computational clusters built on the Windows® 2000 operating system."

Obviously, they are now attempting to compete with projects like Beowulf. It's probably all part of the M$ aggressive stance on Linux (and other competitors). The real question is, has anybody downloaded this kit and played with it. It's just a technology preview, so how mature is it in comparison to Beowulf or other clustering technologies?

it's just to easy !! (-1, Offtopic)

Tha_Zanthrax (521419) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045589)

A MS Windows cluster ??

Imagine a Beowolfcluster of these !! :)

There goes my karma !

BSOD (0, Troll)

Ogrez (546269) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045594)

a blue screen domino effect... starts with one, and next thing you know, its a sea of blue screens. The problem with MS clusters is that stability really becomes a question... a crash spreads like an infection...

Re:BSOD (2, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045722)

Gives new meaning to the term cluster-fsck.

Yeee-haaa! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045595)

Let the flames begin!!

Could you imagine (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045597)

a beowulf cluster of these?

Licensing (3, Informative)

CodeMonky (10675) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045600)

Licensing would seem to be the first thing that comes to mind.
Software costs for 100 linux machines are close to nill.
Software costs for 100 Windows machines probably won't be.
Granted I have read the licensing on the MS Clustering link but if it like anything else you'll need either a license of some kind on every machine.

Re:Licensing (5, Informative)

CodeMonky (10675) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045635)

Followup:
From reading the MS Site it looks licensing is based of the EULA of the software being used, so if you are using win2kpro you have to have a copy of win2kpro for each machine etc etc.

Re:Licensing (5, Funny)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045693)

oh, but remember,

the TCO!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-p

you know how expencive a CS student is!!!! oh my god, how can they afford the astronomical amount of having 5 or 6 of them on one project.

don't you know that if you move to windows for all your reaseach project clustering needs, you only need a chimp....and since educating a chimp is much cheaper than educating 6 bright young men, your university will save a considerable amount of money....especialy when you lay off all those expencive profs and hire an animal trainer.

Re:Licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045732)

people. bright young people.

Re:Licensing/Reliablity (5, Interesting)

MrWinkey (454317) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045705)

My managers will only buy windows products as they have a site liscense with MS. They are looking into Linux a little bit because of the Terminal server w/ load balancing does not load balance and the clusterd computers do not talk to each other. The profiles on the 3 clusterd servers do not update each other at all. This was much better than the last attempt my boss did using an IBM pre configured configured box the whole cluster got a BSOD and corrupted a drive losing data for 3 days. People were not happy.

I can only hope MS's poor performance will make them switch.

Re:Licensing/Reliablity (0, Flamebait)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045731)

gee, after a fudge up like that, I would think that I would dump Windows rather than take them back after they promiss it will be better.....

Ahhh well, PHBs are like abused wifes I guess.

That's easy (3, Funny)

TheReverand (95620) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045773)

Persuade one of your mates to sell them a site license for Linux. If that doesn't work, find some pro-Linux company and offer them some easy cash.

Fault tolerance (2, Insightful)

Simpler (558434) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045602)

Just make sure your distributed computing can handle you having to reboot boxes every now and again.

Anyhow, imagine how much you're paying in software licensing for a large cluster? For a univeristy project, this just doesn't seem to make sense.

Re:Fault tolerance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045640)

You guys forget that Universities get Microsoft stuff free :-)

Of course not! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045603)

Of course nobody did a real test. I'm sure that wont stop Linux people from proclaiming Linux better anyway.

wow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045605)

fr1st ps0t! Props to all Berkeley communists!

Capt. Obvious. (4, Funny)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045607)

One has to only go as far as Microsoft's site to see

Ah, so this is a typical Ask Slashdot then?

--saint

Alan Thicke. DEAD. (-1, Offtopic)

Alan_Thicke (553655) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045608)

I just heard the sad news on CBC radio. Comedy actor/writer Alan Thicke was found dead in his home this morning. Even if you never liked his work, you can appreciate what he did for 80's television. Truly a Canadian icon.
He will be missed :(



Show me That Smile (The Growing Pains Theme Song):

Show me that smile again.
Ooh show me that smile.
Don't waste another minute on your crying.
We're nowhere near the end.
We're nowhere near.
The best is ready to begin.

As long as we got each other [slashdot.org]
We got the world
Sitting right in our hands.
Baby rain or shine;
All the time.
We got each other
Sharing the laughter and love.

money, for one thing (3, Insightful)

ashultz (141393) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045609)

To start, it would take a few hundred dollars per box to put W2000 on it, since they presumably don't want you to just copy their evaluation version.

So unless they're willing to give you their OS for free, why would you even consider it? Suddenly your supercomputer cluster would cost like a real supercomputer... then you could have just bought a real supercomputer!

Re: How Well Does Windows Cluster? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045613)

Let me be the first to say: Who the fuck cares?

Point? (5, Interesting)

nate1138 (325593) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045617)

It seems to me that part of the beauty of a linux cluster is

1. Not having to buy an licence for each machine

2. Having an infinitely configurable system (meaning that you can load as much or as little of the OS and libraries as you want/need)

3. The use of high quality, low/no cost development tools.

It seems to me as though running a cluster on 2k would possibly be easier (point and click) but less efficient.

Re:Point? (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045684)

Universities get Microsoft stuff for free.

A great way to build a client base.

best troll ever. (0, Offtopic)

banuaba (308937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045620)

Mr. Taco, I congradulate you on the best troll I have seen in weeks. Ask a bunch of linux goobers "Hello, is Microsoft better than linux?"
Now I get to play duck and cover while the FUD cannon roar, on both sides of the table.

There's a name for that... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045625)

Replace a Linux Cluster with Microsoft?

I believe the military have a term for this.

It's called a Cluster F**K.

Dirty Linux Hippies are Dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045626)

Yet another crippling bombshell hit the beleaguered Dirty GNU Hippie community when last month IDC confirmed that Rancid Smelling GNU Hippies account for less than a fraction of 1 percent of all humans. Coming on the heels of the latest Netcraft survey which plainly states that Natty haired greasy GNU Hippie have lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Reeking Linux Hippies are collapsing in complete disarray, as further exemplified by failing dead last [sysadminmag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive /usr/bin/sh test.

You don't need to be a Kreskin [amdest.com] to predict the future of the Stinking sweaty Linux hippie. The hand writing is on the wall: Foul-stenched GNU hippies with swampy armpits face a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for them because they are dying. Things are looking very bad for Hairy-backed GNU hippie. As many of us are already aware, they continue to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

Troll leader Anonymouse Coward states that there are 7000 goatse.cx trolls. How many ascii art trolls are there? Let's see. The number of goatse.cx versus ascii art posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 ascii art trolls. Pimply-faced GNU hippies posts on Slashdot are about half of the volume of ascii art posts. Therefore there are about 700 Cock-Gobbling GNU Hippies. A recent article put "first post" at about 80 percent of the troll market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 "first post" trolls. This is consistent with the number of first posts.

All major surveys show that Putrid smelling greasy GNU hippies have steadily declined in market share. Slashdot is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Grubby Smelly Linux Hippies are to survive at all it will be among troll hobbyist dabblers. Slashdot continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Dirty GNU Hippies are dead.

This troll was reposted from the Troll Library without permission of the original author. If you object to this post, or if you wish to add your troll to the Troll Library, please reply to this message.

Take a look at (5, Informative)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045627)

Windows Clusters [windowsclusters.org] .

Re:Take a look at (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045716)

Are you kidding?
That page looks like someone's personal home page whipped together with FrontPage templates.

not a good place to ask (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045632)

for what it's worth, filter out all the crap about MS sucks, BSOD's etc, and you might get a nugget of truth in there.

MS has improved a lot on the server side of the house, as Advanced Server and Cluster Server will show you. Get your MS rep to set you one up if you can, I am sure he or she wouldn't mind doing this, since there's plenty o money to be made there.

Re:not a good place to ask (2, Insightful)

haapi (16700) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045661)

... and have him set the MS demo on the identical
hardware currently running the Linux cluster.
Compare results.

I believe you're correct... (3, Interesting)

powerlinekid (442532) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045633)

From what I understand from reading Win 2k Advanced Server's help section on Windows clustering, it is mostly for stability. Kind of like a massive mirror raid system. I really don't see any performance advantage if you're looking for supercomputer speeds, unless your measure performance by uptime. As a side note, what were you using for clustering? I'm currently doing a cluster using mosix for my school [newpaltz.edu] and it seems to be going nice. I'm just curious as to what gives the best speed performance on the linux end.

why pay....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045634)

Why pay money when you can set up a cluster for the cost of the hardware? I assume as you increase the size of a Windows based cluster you'd get more power(!) but also more costs.

Would'nt the license fees become prohibitive?

Clustering Exchange (1, Interesting)

MikeDataLink (536925) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045638)

Well, my company clusters exchange on Win2K Advanced Server.

We run in what's called an active/active cluster. But for the most part, the machines are just sharing responsibility. In most windows clusters the other server is just sitting there waiting for the first to fail. They share two drives (on seperate hardware either fibre channel or SCSI attached) and when it fails, the other server picks up those drives. Windows writes data to those drives so when the other server picks it up it can import that data and pick up where the other server left off.

Clustering is PERFECT for fault tolerance. It is useless for most intents and purposes for load balancing. If you want load balancing you can use NLBS, but it just plain sucks, and never works right.

Re:Clustering Exchange (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045751)

A cluster is fine for HARDWARE based issues with fault tolerance, but the nex worm / bug / blue screen will kill the entire cluster.

In an exchange cluster, you even get to replicate a corrupted database!!! Cool!

A cluster of fragile unstable software that is full of security flaws and bugs and costs big bucks (Advanced Server, which is the version that clusters is Very expensive) isn't something to bother with.

New Microsoft Product!! (3, Funny)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045639)

With their vaunted stability, and marketing
savvy, their new Cluster Product will be called:

The Cluster Bomb!

Re:New Microsoft Product!! (1)

Cecil Bumfluff (103556) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045784)

No you really need VAX for the true Cluster Bomb, BOFH style !!

BOFH and the VAX Cluster Bomb [theregister.co.uk]

"What would it take... (0, Troll)

prisonercx (40652) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045643)

to get them to switch to a Microsoft cluster?" How about not shafting everybody who's ever used your OS? ;)

department title said it all... (4, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045649)

"from the please...no-more-beowulf-jokes dept."

too late

Re:department title said it all... (2, Insightful)

Grace Hopper (159214) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045692)

Here's a deal: no more beowulf jokes if /. can manage to drop the tired CowboyNeal poll option joke...

Re:department title said it all... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045756)

Does this open up the possibility of a beowulf cluster-fuck?

You're running on old hardware right? (1)

Agent Green (231202) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045650)

If you're running on old hardware, M$ isn't the way to go.

I still have a useful BSD and a Linux server running on a 486. It doesn't do much, but it works for my purposes. I can't imagine the pain that I would experience trying to run something like XP on it.

Considering how much you can tweak on an open-source OS, I wouldn't begin to consider MS. I mean, Office XP is slow, but how much more do you need to get out of it? ;)

Re:You're running on old hardware right? (1)

Ogrez (546269) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045725)

Do you run X on the 486... probably not.. if you do a full install of redhat 7.2 and run x, your looking at 2.8 gig install, and running x, the system resources are going to be real similar...

Here's the deal: (5, Informative)

Null_Packet (15946) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045652)

MCS (Microsoft Cluster Services) are designed for load balancing and fault tolerance, as where Beowulf Clusters (AFAIK) are more for distrubuted processing load for performance increases (massive threading). MCS works quite well, especially well on Fibre Channel and Brand Name Hardware such as Dells and Compaqs.

Simply put, it works well (but the cost is often an issue due to the cost of hardware in an enterprise) but it is not the same clustering you see with the Unices. E-mail me at my account if you have more specific questions.

My intent is not to start or participate in a flame war, but the term clustering simply implies different things on different OS'.

Windows of a sort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045655)

Easy solution, run wine to please the MS observers.

Is this even possible in Win? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045657)

I mean, without source code, how could you hack the OS to do clustering a-la Beowulf? Yeah, sure, you can do distributed apps (like SETI@Home), but that's not the same thing.

The date on the M$ "CCTP" website is over a year old... but this is the first I've heard of it. Why hasn't M$ been marketing this? I mean, the fact that it doesn't even work (if that is the case) has never stopped them in the past, eh? ;-)

Has anyone tried this thing?

--jrd

Re:Is this even possible in Win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045750)

Yeah clustering (not fault-tolerance/redudancy, but computational clustering) has been working for quite some time. It's not updated on the web site because the people who usually need it get a Microsoft rep directly at their doorstep.

I've seen it in action in one of the largest investment banks in the world - they took an application that predicted good and bad trades that used to take the company two hours per run and reduced that time down to five seconds. The company went from making 7/8 trades a day to being able to make a lot more, and their profitability went up in the hundreds of millions. (We're talking ten or more million dollars per trade here!)

If you look at things such as BizTalk server, easily buildable (and importable into Word, etc) XML Web Services, and Windows Clustering they were able to do this turnaround in such a short period of time its not even funny.

Windows clustering is great. Your university should use it because A) Microsoft pays for the software, and B) Microsoft usually pays for the hardware :-)

HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045662)

It would take a lot of money for licensing and for RAM.

And the cluster would perform like SHIT.

I'd tell any MS rep to fuck off if he came to me with such a god damn stupid idea.

Re:HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045777)

I'd tell any MS rep to fuck off if he came to me with such a god damn stupid idea.

Heck, I'll tell them that no matter what idea they come to me with.

Beowulf (5, Interesting)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045666)

A beowulf cluster is not limited to Linux, it could run on top of any OS. I believe NASA did the original design work to be OS agnostic.

http://www.windowsclusters.org/projects.htm gives a list of current Windows clusters.

Finally, are you out of your tiny little mind? I wonder why M$ is so keen to help. There is no such thing as a free lunch, espically from M$.

Joke for yah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045673)

Q: Can Microsoft Windows do *X*?

A: Who gives a shit?

What would it take? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045674)

How about free licensing in perpetuity, ability to run on older hardware (which further reduces cost) and access to the codebase so that changes can be made (if necessary or desired) to better support your clustering needs.

If that Microsoft Rep can even touch those, then tell him you are open to the idea of beginning negotiations.

C0deM0nkey

"It runs Linux and works" - 'nuff said? (5, Insightful)

Booker (6173) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045678)

Ok, you have a solution in place. It works. Some sales guy wants you to change your solution that works.

Make him convince you that the time and cost of the switch is going to gain you something.

Does your current setup not do what you need it to do?

You guys are totally stupid, you know... (0, Flamebait)

thona (556334) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045679)

...he talks of being in a educational institution and you guys think of licensing costs? most have campus licenses (for a low fee) allowing them to use as much windows as they want without paying an additional fee. Seems you trolls dont have even a clue why you dont beat the hell out of Microsoft. Simple: They are not that stupid. Just because you morons have to pay the full price does not mean that anyone who is worth something for MS has to pay - I get my MS Softwarte for free (for a long time by now), and heh as with a VERY high propability access to a similar deal to. My advice: GET IT GOING ON MS. Why? Obviously MS wants you to get it going, so ask your rep for all support you can get. That will be more and better (a.k.a. professional) than anything you can get for LinSux.

You're so close, but wrong vendor.. (2)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045757)

That MIGHT make sense if he didn't need hardware too. Since THAT'S the case, he should head out to IBM, get a decent midrange, and cluster linux on virtual machines.

No worrying about Software licenses, AND "Professional" support from IBM for both hardware and software.

Re:You guys are totally stupid, you know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045781)

Wow - everyone else is a moron, but your clear lack of understanding of the English language (or a reasonable thought, for that matter) apparently makes you a genius.

You are correct that many (possibly even most) schools pay large sums of money to get site licenses, and then extra licenses are free/really cheap. However, this does not address the cost of porting software, etc - which is the REAL cost of a project. Of course, if you'd ever actually participated in a project you might know this, rather than saying things like "moron" and "LinSux".

MS licenses cheap for EDU (2)

extra88 (1003) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045794)

This troll has a point, most Universities have a licensing deal with Microsoft that makes licenses much, much cheaper. So the OS cost should be inconsequential, what matter more is how it performs doing the tasks you cluster computers for and how hard it is to write code for that platform vs. Beowulf. I would think the CPU overhead of Windows would make it not fare well when compared with Beowulf Linux. I realize Windows can arguably outperform Linux on web serving but that's much less an issue of maximizing CPU use.

The only reason I can think of to go with the Microsoft clustering is if its the only way you can get some decent hardware. If you have 20 PIIs now, I would think 20 P4s would trump them even running Windows.

Hmm, naming conventions... (1)

arubis (68392) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045682)

That would be....what, a Grendel cluster?

MS Cluster is not the same (5, Informative)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045685)

Hello,

We run a MS cluster here. VERY big app... so big, I am loathe to name figures, because that would identify to MS just who is talking here...

But, we use MS clustering for our web app. Our setup is that we have a database server with 4 procs, and a growing array of web servers with 1 proc each, all of which use disk space on a SAN. W2K clustering manages the load balancing as well as allocating disk space out of the SAN to virtual partitions as needed. The original poster is correct; MS clustering is for load balancing, not computation. I have seen many times Microsoft sales reps don't have a clue of what they're trying to sell; they're just told from on high to replace Linux with Microsoft wherever they can. I think this is clearly a case of that.

My advice? Ask the sales rep to demonstrate how MS clustering will solve a common comp-sci problem with more MIPS than each box alone has. Point out that you're not running a web server or any such service on these boxes, but that they're for raw computation. Even better, see if he'll let you talk to a technician on how W2K clustering can meet your 'unique' (at least to MS) needs.

Now, for everyone else... Don't get me wrong. W2K clustering is a great technology for building highly performant, highly reliable, highly scalable applications quickly and easily. But it scales in the direction of millions of users, not millions of computations.

Cornell Theory Center (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045687)

You should check out the Cornell Theory Center for info on clustering with MS 2000. They sold there souls to the devil for free machines...signing a contract forbidding them to use UNIX type OSs. I have installed and fiddled with a cluster of MS 2000 machines, and it is a complete pain. We ended up dual-booting with Redhat 7.1 and it hasn't been in windows for 8 months now!

Windows 2000 Advanced Server (2, Informative)

DeMorganLaw (543089) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045689)

Clustering for windows requires Windows 2000 Advanced Server, and a great deal of patching. And with old hardware you are out of luck trying to run Windows 2000 Advanced Server.


Distributed computing for Windows has been around for a while though, Seti@home has been doing it for years.

my troll (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045694)

Of course, it clusters. It's just a cluster-fuck.

BTW: MS Slashdotted (4, Funny)

datastew (529152) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045699)

Looks like Microsoft is busy being slashdotted.

MS AppCenter server (2, Interesting)

Twister002 (537605) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045700)

Chances are the MS rep didn't understand MS clustering. He just knew that you had a Beowulf cluster and he wanted to sell you MS software so he figured he'd sell you a MS cluster, regardless of whether or not it would do what a Beowulf cluster could do.

However there is a server solution I saw demoed at a MS DPS I attended called Application Center [microsoft.com] . It allows you to manage your cluster and distributes workloads throughout the cluster.

Now, I'm not sure if you NEED this to take advantage of Windows 2000 clustering. The last time I worked with a MS cluster was under NT 4 and it was failover only. The load balancing was "faked" by a router that would just alternate which server the request was sent to.

(insert "yeah but MS is evil" comment here)
(insert "yeah but Linux Beowulf clusters cost less" comment here)
(insert "yeah but who wants to have to reboot your cluster all the time" comment here)
(insert "I wish the sigs were longer because that's a really good quote by Richard Feynman" comment here)

what?? (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045706)

an MS rep asked what it would take to get them to switch to a Microsoft cluster.

first the rep needs to prove that $199.00 per node for software fees has to provide major benifits over the Linux cluster. How many windows clusters can he list for you to call and ask about it? refrences, ones you can call and talk to the guys running/maintaining it. Show where microsoft provided increased profits or savings over an open alternative.

If they cant give you a dollar amount that shows increased profits or major savings then be sure to tell the rep that he shouldn't let the door hit him in the ass on the way out. It isnt MS versus Open anymore in today's economy.. it's what can get it done and save me money or can give me more profits... and this is what makes Open solutions win... microsoft can't give savings and the performance difference isnt enough to give profits that will more than overcome the added expense of Microsoft.

Get real numbers, talk to real people running real clusters on all platforms. if you have real numbers then you can make solid decisions.

Windows Clustering (3, Interesting)

cluge (114877) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045708)

Windows clustering works as advertised for the most part, but is expensive. Some exceptions include heavily loaded machine pulling from fiber channel arrays and NAS. Both of the network attached devices seem to have some problems. Driver issues? Don't know.

Haven't seen the reported "bsod round table" where one machine crashes, shortly followed by another and another. The problems we have seen is a single machine bsods, and the other machines in the cluster don't realize it's down.

If your already in the MS camp, it will work, it look at other solutions. I think they will be more cost effective.

Re:Windows Clustering (2)

cluge (114877) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045740)

If your already in the MS camp, it will work, it look at other solutions. I think they will be more cost effective.

should be "If your already in the MS camp, it will work, if you are not I would look at other solutions. I think they will be more cost effective."

Seen in list of software included... (2, Interesting)

johnthorensen (539527) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045711)

...with M$'s "Computational Clustering Technical Preview":

* PLAPACK package (open source software)

heh.

-JT

A little name dropping (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045712)

MPI Pro 1.6 from MPI Software Technology, Inc.

Cluster CoNTroller 1.0.1 from MPI Software Technology, Inc

These found on the MS website. It sounds like it's more than load balancing if you ask me... (mpi pro, that would be a commercial version of MPI? I've never used that particular implementation before, only mpich)

I prefer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045713)

Cluster lizards [eva-habermann.de]

Well, with Condor... (2, Interesting)

mofolotopo (458966) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045714)

You can do a windows cluster thing, but it's still not as good even as Condor for Unix. All in all, I'd say to tell them to go screw themselves unless they want to give you money for a LOT more hardware as well as software, to make up for the fact that you're not going to be able to do as much with it. If MS wants to be taken seriously as a hardcore number-crunching OS, the bastards can EARN it instead of trying to bribe academics.

I've been looking at this a lot myself now, as I'm also building a cluster for use in a computational bio lab at Florida State. It certainly seems that Linux is the only way to go right now. In case anyone cares, my cluster right now is 16 nodes of:

Tyan S2460 with 2 Athlon MP1800+ processors per node
1 gig PC2100 RAM per node
20 gig 7200 RPM Maxtor HD
3Com Gigabit over copper Ethernet
low-end cheapass video and floppy, etc.
All in these really nice rack cases, with a big black 2001 monolith-esque rolling rack to shove it all around in. It cost just about $26,000 to build so far, but the plans are to expand it to as many as 512 nodes within the next year or so. Whee!

MS Technology Preview? (2)

jlower (174474) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045715)

How good is any MS product in its v1.0 release?

Seems to me that historically, MS rushes a v1.0 product out to stem the tide of a competing product and then spend the next couple releases getting a "real" product out the door.

I have zero experience with unix clustering but would be suspicious of the MS offering until it has a chance to mature.

As opposed to version 1.0 of any software? (0, Offtopic)

Twister002 (537605) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045788)

Anyone here run version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel? How well did it run.

Face it, most software sucks in it's first version. It's a sad fact.

Clustered MPEG encoding with TMPGenc? (2, Interesting)

Mean_Nishka (543399) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045719)

I remember reading somewhere that everybody's favorite MPEG encoder (TMPGenc) supported a distributed model for encoding.

That said, with the three computers I have at my place (a p3 desktop, a celeron I use as a low grade server, and my p3 notebook) I'd love to be able to set up a cluster for encoding. Such operations will be the killer app for clustered systems IMHO.

What would it take? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045723)

There's your opportunity!

N quad xenons. All required licencesx2. Gig-e switches. Hardware hardware hardware. no use in lowballing here.

Plus cash. A couple of hundred K$. A connection to internet2.

Airborne Pigs might be useful too.

Poke around at IU (2)

The Man (684) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045724)

I believe Indiana University has two hardware-similar clusters, one running Unix and one running some flavor of DOS. I don't have to URL but it shouldn't be hard to find.

Stability issues (5, Informative)

The Panther! (448321) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045726)

At my last job, we had a COW (Cluster of Workstations) running all sorts of operating systems. Except Windows. Why? Because they won't run in a production environment for more than a few days without freezing or crashing, and the system administrators refused to babysit them. With Windows 2000, I've had my home machine run for upwards of 28 days without a reboot, but only if all the video drivers are stable and the machine is not doing too much at any given point (say, burning cds while watching movies and keeping my net connection above 200k/s). But so help you if a driver freezes. There's no way to reset them. Your hardware will play into your decision as much as the operating system, I believe, due to stable driver support.

In terms of performance, Windows kernels have pretty good latency compared to 2.2.x linux kernels, so running a full screen dos app might give very good performance, but there's a lot of overhead munching into your RAM, which is likely to be an expensive premium on older hardware.

Lastly, with Windows, I've never heard of doing channel bonding for ethernet (3 100TX cards ~= 1 gigabit), nor diskless booting that I know of. These can be really necessary for large clusters to keep maintenance down and performance up without buying higher end equipment.

Don't know if this answers your question... (5, Funny)

Fizzlewhiff (256410) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045729)

but based on personal experience, Windows ME is pretty much a cluster.

Limits seem to be the key (3, Interesting)

marian (127443) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045739)

While I haven't been near a Microsoft Cluster in a while, I do remember a couple of things that really stand out about them:

The number of systems able to be part of the cluster is severely limited. At the time, it was limited to 2, but I'm pretty sure that has increased to a somewhat larger single digit number.

The number of applications available to run on the cluster is just as severely limited. Again at the time, there were exactly zero applications, but I know that there is at least one (Exchange) now.


Given the limitations of what uses you can put an MS cluster to, I wouldn't bother with it in the first place.

this is an excellent idea (2)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045743)

not only can you do all of your research on a windows cluster, you can consolidate all of your major security holes into one small area. It makes tracking down the problem children on your network much easier.

Re:this is an excellent idea (1)

NTSwerver (92128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045785)

you can consolidate all of your major security holes into one small area

Not if this guy [bbspot.com] has anything to do with it !

Windows clustering a la Microsoft (2, Interesting)

jsprat (442568) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045744)

Funny...
I followed the link to Microsoft's clustering solution. Another link took me to a free evaluation page - the package includes:
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional evaluation version
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Server evaluation version
  • Microsoft Visual C++® 6.0 Standard Edition
  • MPI Pro 1.6 from MPI Software Technology, Inc.
  • Cluster CoNTroller 1.0.1 from MPI Software Technology, Inc.
  • Visual Fortran 6.5 Standard (Trial Version) from Compaq
  • Math Kernel Libraries 5.0 from Intel
  • Computational Cluster Monitor from Cornell Theory Center
  • PLAPACK package (open source software)

All for $7.95 shipping and handling!

May be a cheap way to get a few Win2K licenses? ;)

Sales rep? (2)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045747)

Your sales rep is going to try and do just that. Sale. However, if he has a decent presales engineer you can talk with about it, give him the details. For the most part, these engineers aren't the rabid moneey grubbers you see on the sales side. So, explain your issue to him, see what he has to say, and go with that. I seriously doubt the sales guy knows the difference between true clustering and fault tolerance, which is pretty much what MS's clustering services are.

Keep in mind, the sales rep will not have your best interest in mind, just your money.

Yes, I know there are good reps out there, but I have become quite jaded with them on the whole, especially since I used to be that presales engineer telling clients that what the rep just said was:

a) not feasible
b) harder than described
c) not worth the money invested.

anyhow, my $.0002

Whoa! Can you imagine... (1, Redundant)

flacco (324089) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045748)

MS rep asked what it would take to get them to switch to a Microsoft cluster.

Could you imagine a Beowulf cluster of MS Windows clusters?!

Imagine... (0, Redundant)

kick_in_the_eye (539123) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045754)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

If you have a site license, this might make sense (1)

Disoculated (534967) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045759)

The only way an NT cluster would make any sense is if you already have a license that has a bunch of unused seats on it. If you don't have to pay anything extra, it might be worth the trouble to use NT for the convenience.

On the other hand, this is one area where MS sorely lags behind in software. For a research cluster, you'll have very little in the way of applications and be very, very alone when something goes wrong.

Also, the whole ethos of computational clusters is for performance. You won't be able to compile the operating system with just what you need, tuned to your hardware and processors. You'll also blow memory with a desktop you don't need. This just isn't a good idea for any serious cluster.

why not macintosh cluster? (2, Interesting)

mstrjon32 (542309) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045767)

there are some (as far as i understand) very good macintosh clusters that are very easy to use and very fast. especially if nothing (significant) has been done yet, a macintosh cluster computing G4-optimized code would blow away anything else in its price range. I can't say I have ever used one of these, or any other cluster for that matter, but the genuine power and versatility of the mac tells me its gotta be good.

First Hand Info (4, Informative)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045769)

We researched MS Clustering very extensively. We're already an MS shop and even still it was cost prohibitive.

Notes from experience:

1) Clustering with Windows requires one of the following OS setups: Win2K Server WITH MS Application Center, OR Win2k Advanced Server. (Similarly with the XP platform)

2) OS Licenses therefor will run between $1000-2000 _per-machine_!

3) If you need Application center, which you likely will, you're talking (If I remember correctly) about another $1g per.

4) Of course MS is just getting into this so don't expect it to be easy, well documented or stable.

Finishing Notes:

Obviously, Linux would be mucho cheaper

Easiest, and still cheaper than MS would be the Plug-n-Play Mac solution!

just think a minute... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3045774)

if microsoft could do a computational cluster, wouldn't they have a 5000 box cluster in the super computer list just like the linux clusters.

Windows Clustering (1)

chicagothad (227885) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045775)

I run a large B2C e-commerce site with Win2k server. We are running a "cluster environment" with a Cisco Content Swtich providing the load balancing functions, MS SiteServer providing file replication, and SQL server doing DB replication (where the content switch manages failover).

We have tried using Windows 2000 native clustering (file/database). We have found that with limited resources and budget this is difficult to do. You generally have to be running active directory to have the cluster work effectively in terms or load balancing and cluster management. This is a total pain in the ass to manage especially if you are doing a one-off active directory setup.

I have been told MS application center manages this correctly and allows for true software level load balancing. But, I only know of a few large installations using this. Generally, I have found a Ciscoed solution to be the most prevalent.

Bottom Line:Microsoft makes clustering and load balancing to work because you can't rely on one solo server (not matter how big the server is).

Ofcourse you can cluster it! (1)

Greger47 (516305) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045783)

Since the middleware runs on WinNT and friends, so will your applications (when properly ported ofcourse).

For example PVM [ornl.gov] , there are MPI implementations for WinNT too, I just don't remember any links of the top of my head.

Q: What would it take to get you to switch to MS? (1)

Kismet (13199) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045787)

A: Give away your OS and clustering software, complete with source code.

ACME (2, Interesting)

ViceClown (39698) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045790)

Check out ACME [purdue.edu] at Perdue University. It was setup by a couple grad students on the cheap and really is a model of inexpensive high-performance computing. I think they only spent a coupe grand on the whole thing with help from the school scrap yard. Some good lessons in there. Oh, and they run FreeBSD which, as it's name suggestes is FREE!!

Maybe if you could cluster DOS (1)

Xannor (174984) | more than 12 years ago | (#3045792)

The main point of clustering is to take a bunch of "cheap" computers and make them work like a super computer.

If you really want a performance comparison look at the minimum sys req for the clusters:

Linux i386+ with 16mb ram and 200mb hd space.
(unlimited nodes/users)

Windows Win2k/XP server p2/300 64mb ram 800mb hd space.
(+$200 per node/+$500 per every 5 users)

with all of the overhead for windows gui and other apps (whihc are mostly usless in a cluster) you would need three times the system for a windows box to get the same perfrom as a *nix/bsd box.

Unless of course you can cluster DOS then whoa buddy watch out!
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