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Year of the Mainframe? Not Quite, Say Linux Grids

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the big-iron-not-so-big dept.

Supercomputing 222

OSS_ilation writes "IBM touted 2006 as a resurgence year for the mainframe, but not so fast. At R.L. Polk and Co., one of the oldest automobile analytics firms in the U.S., an aging mainframe couldn't cut it, so the IT staff looked elsewhere. Their search led to a grid computing environment — more specifically, a grid computing environment running Linux on more than 120 Dell servers. The mainframe's still there, apparently, but after an internal comparison showed the Linux grid outperforming the mainframe by 70% with a 65% reduction in hardware costs, Polk seemed content banishing the big box to a dark, lonely corner for more medial tasks."

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222 comments

"medial" tasks? (1, Interesting)

adam (1231) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471934)

FTFS: "Polk seemed content banishing the big box to a dark, lonely corner for more medial tasks."

Medial tasks? I think you mean menial tasks [google.com] . Although there are such things as medial equations in algebra, I believe, but I don't think you were referring to those.

I hate to go into grammar police mode, but it bugs me when people misunderstand the usage of common phrases by replacing one or more words with another. I have actually heard people say "for all intensive purposes," hahaha. (as opposed to "for all intents and purposes"). And then there are all the weird expressions we do use, that are redundant or just make no sense: hot water heater, end result, safe haven, advance warning, vin number, atm machine.

Re:"medial" tasks? (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471948)

While it is quite possible they meant 'menial', as that is the common phrase, they might also have meant just what they said.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=medial [reference.com]
2. pertaining to a mean or average; average.

The Grid is used for complex, processor-intensive tasks, I'm sure. The regular daily cruft is probably still done on the old mainframe. Those would be 'medial tasks'. If they made it into a monitor instead of a system that does processing, that might be considered menial. (I'm having a hard time finding 'menial' tasks a computer can do...)

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=menial [reference.com]
1. lowly and sometimes degrading: menial work.

Sooo... If you're going to be grammar police, please do your homework first.

Re:"medial" tasks? (1, Flamebait)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472034)

Medial, as in Median as in Average, does not mean average as in "day to day", it means the middle of a set of numbers. 10, 20, 30, 8, 45, 99, 10 - the median here is "8". How do you define "medial tasks"? The ones that sit in the middle of the work log?

The grammar police are right here. The word the guy was looking for was "menial". I don't agree with his derogatory comments on phrases like "safe haven" (haven has had it's definition expanded to mean other things than safety, so it's a distinguisher) but I do fully agree with these people who say that things are "medial tasks", "for all intensive purposes" and even stupid mistakes like "I could of done it better" which makes no sense (could've though if they had passed English), and crazy mispronounciations of cute British phrases bastardised by Americans..

Re:"medial" tasks? (2, Funny)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472048)

I'm an idiot, with my entire college time spent doing statistics, I should have sorted the numbers into order before picking the middle one.

HOWEVER point remains!

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472084)

I don't agree with his derogatory comments on phrases like "safe haven" (haven has had it's definition expanded to mean other things than safety, so it's a distinguisher)
Shaven Haven for example? :)

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

Monoman (8745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472126)

... crazy mispronounciations of cute British phrases bastardised by Americans.

Please explain. These kinds of things interest me and it reminds me of Eddie Izzard's rant about American pronunciations.

"You say 'erbs', and we say 'herbs', because there's a fucking 'H' in it!"

Re:"medial" tasks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472522)

It's funny you mention the word "herb." When the word first entered English, there was no
"h" - the Middle English spelling follows the Old French (from which the word derives) -
"erbe." One occasionally finds an ME/OF spelling with "h" at the front, emulating the Latin
spelling - the word, however, had already dropped the initial consonant in pronunciation by
the time it came into English. Comparing the other Romance languages, one finds it usually
dropped - "erba" in Italian and "yerba" in Spanish.

The pronunciation of the "h" is actually a new thing. After 1475, the standard spelling of the
word was with an initial "h," but it wasn't until the 19th century that the "h" came to be
pronounced (i.e., wasn't "silent").

Let's hear it for some classes in historical linguistics and the OED!

Re:"medial" tasks? (0, Troll)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472604)

"You say 'erbs', and we say 'herbs', because there's a fucking 'H' in it!"

Cholmondesley.

Duece.

Eddie may serve again if he wishes, but I have a whole list of English place names here; starting with Birmingham, with a fucking 'h' in it!

KFG

Re:"medial" tasks? (0, Offtopic)

eighty4 (987543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473082)

"Burmin'am" (as us locals pronounce it) also has a "G" in it, but that seems to have fallen from use too...

Definately Offtopic (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473642)

As is this post, I'd rate it at 0 myself if I had the power, mod away I can take it, but a rebuttal that makes you feel uncomfortable is not the same thing as a troll.

KFG

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472958)

My mistake, I picked the second definition, which does indeed only related to mathematics, because it said 'average' in it and I wasn't thinking mathematics.

1. situated in or pertaining to the middle; median; intermediate.
and
(American Heritage Dictionary, further into that same page)
Average; ordinary.

Ordinary does not have a defintion related to mathematics that I know of. This means that medial, when not in relation to mathematics, means 'ordinary' or 'average'.

The Grammar Police may have been right, or they may not have been. (They probably were.) But to be the GP, you have to be exact and they were not. What's the point of being anal if you're not going to go all the way?

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472148)

Or perhaps they installed an automatic illness diagnosis program on the mainframe for when employees get sick from looking at all that data, but the letter C was missing on the keyboard, so medical tasks came out wrong. Or maybe a medial task is like a remedial task, but whereas remedial action is to clear up a mess that already exists, medial action is to stop it happening in the first place. Perhaps it was a capitalization error and they meant MeDial (tm) software which automatically phones every number in their phone book of car dealerships and plays a recorded message.

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472782)

Considering that the article only mentioned the machine operating in a "reduced capacity," it's clear the submitter meant "menial."

Re:"medial" tasks? (1, Offtopic)

tim_mcc (679987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471954)

Yes, we all hate the redundant tautologies!

Re:"medial" tasks? (0, Offtopic)

berashith (222128) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472000)

Oh, the tautology!

Re:"medial" tasks? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472026)

'I'm gonna get medial on your ass' said the mainframe.

Re:"medial" tasks? (0, Offtopic)

Monoman (8745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472044)

I'm right there with you. Also, I really like it when a person with a college education pronounces words incorrectly.

My favorite is "supposubly" and I even worked with a person that said "aks" quite often. I just know some day I will run across an adult saying "pasghetti" in a professional setting. :-)

I am far from being a qualified grammar nazi. If I notice something is wrong then it must be pretty bad. People just need to slow down sometimes and think about what they are doing.

REM *** End of off-topic discussion ***

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472140)

I just know some day I will run across an adult saying "pasghetti" in a professional setting.

How about nucular [slate.com] instead?

Re:"medial" tasks? (2, Funny)

Damastus the WizLiz (935648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472208)

Ok, I say pasghetti, but only because it is fun.

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472558)

Hi, college educated here, but I will on occasion mispronounce words that I know how to (and normally pronounce correctly). Sometimes my mind just doesn't get to the tongue in time and a soft c becomes a hard c or something equally inane (it sounds really dumb). It more frequently happens when I'm reading out loud (I read silently exceedingly quickly and really have to slow my eyes down to say all the words). I try to practice in a setting where it matters less, and rarely write something that will be read verbatim.

Re:"medial" tasks? (4, Funny)

bconway (63464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472260)

Aw come on. Isn't this really all a mute point?

"End result" is not redundant (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472468)

You can have intermediate results, and then ultimately an end result.

Re:"medial" tasks? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473160)

A half-vast complaint if ever I saw one! ;-)

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

Spookticus (985296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473220)

What about NIC card?

Re:"medial" tasks? (1)

neimon (713907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473652)

My favorite: "He proceeded at a high rate of speed."

Um. Speed IS a rate.

Linux Niche (2)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471936)

As an admittedly non-initiate in linux (I run osx), this seems very much what linux is
good for, rather than for a desktop os, where difficulty of setup would be a severe
handicap. I've always believed that open-source suffers from the in-house-tool
mentality, which assumes the end user is extremely sophistacted. As an engineer,
I can testify to my lack of desire to make the UI more than bare-bones.

Maxim

Re:Linux Niche (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17471998)

The difficulty of desktop Linux is really a myth these days. I recently set up Fedora Core 6 on a laptop. Setting up FC6 as a desktop is now trivially easy. It roughly consisted of inserting a CD-ROM, booting it, clicking OK and Next a few times then feeding it disks until it finished.

Installing extra software was equally trivial. There is a GUI to start off the Applications menu for installing more software. It downloads and installs the software all as one step. No need to download it, run a separate installer or scroll through pages of impeneterable EULA.

To add extra applications to this GUI application installer - mainly multimedia applications - all it required was clicking on a link on Livna's web page to add the Livna repository. (Like Mac OS X, you're asked for the administrative password on application install).

Installing Fedora Core and extra applications and extra application repositories is actaully easier than doing the same on Windows, and about the equivalent difficulty of doing the same on Mac OS X.

For third-party applications, there is Autopackage: http://autopackage.org/ [autopackage.org] - which provides a distro-independent method of installing applications. It's reminiscent of things like the Mac OS X application installer (for apps you can't simply drag to the Applications folder) or the InstallShield types of installers for Windows. Except unlike InstallShield installers, it has the ability to resolve and fetch dependencies (ever tried to install Microsoft BizTalk? Complex and unweildy because you must manually install several dependencies, each with their own dependencies. Autopackage does away with this dependency hell).

Re:Linux Niche (3, Insightful)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472188)

The difficulty of desktop Linux is really a myth these days. I recently set up Fedora Core 6 on a laptop. Setting up FC6 as a desktop is now trivially easy. It roughly consisted of inserting a CD-ROM, booting it, clicking OK and Next a few times then feeding it disks until it finished.

And then you want to get your sound working on your newer laptop? Well, go find the brand new beta development source code for your driver and compile that up (oh yeah, install the compiler and dev kits first). Do I want ALSA or that other sound system, can't remember its name? Which one should I choose? Then configure conf.modules (or is it modules.conf?) to load the driver automtaically upon startup.

Okay, where do I set the wireless password? I know I saw that somewhere before. Oh, the Dlink-chip-du-jour isn't supported out of the box, I have to go find some more development drivers for it, if I can.

Hmmmm, how do I suspend this and hibernate it properly? I know that was trivial under windows. Can I even do that under Linux?

Hmmm, where did my scrolling regions go on my trackpad? You know, the edges that let me scroll easily under Windows. I have to do *what* to get that working?

Now, time for a presentation; install openoffice, that works fine, good. Okay, now to switch to external monitor. Hmmm, Fn-Monitor doesn't work. Time to google. WTF? I have to edit xorg.conf to enable the external monitor, and then hack mode lines to get it working for my projector? (Reaches for Windows XP CD...)

I love Linux, and *I* personally will suffer those problems; but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else who isn't an expert (and even wouldn't for some of those), as I'd end up with a lifetime of this type of support on my hands.

Re:Linux Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473040)

Hmmm, where did my scrolling regions go on my trackpad? You know, the edges that let me scroll easily under Windows. I have to do *what* to get that working?

I've bought an Acer laptop last year and, oddly enough, WinXP home that came with it didn't supported scrolling regions. On the other hand, Ubuntu supports it right out of the box without having to tweak anything since the days of 5.04.

Granted, there are still glitches to work with, mainly related to wireless support. Nevertheless, over these few years it has been increasingly difficult to point out arguments supporting that whole "desktop linux isn't desktop-ready" thing. A while back eveyone claimed it was too hard to install. Well, that one has been blown over years ago, since every distribution on the face of the earth adopted automated install processes which are very easy to follow and are free of problems. Then the problem was linux being ugly. Well, projects like KDE, GNOME and others (XFCE, you beautiful you!) put an end to it. Then the problem was about basic sound and video support. Well, nowadays those are practically nonexistent. So now the biggest claim is the lack of wireless support for laptops, which already exist and is being improved as we speak. Don't you see a pattern here?

Right now linux is indeed ready for the desktop but not every desktop. Linux is ready for every desktop which doesn't need wireless internet access and it is only a matter of time before that ceases to be a problem.

Re:Linux Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473126)

...Reaches for the Boxed XP CD and:
  1. XP can't see the SATA harddisk controller and refuses to install
  2. XP can't detect any Lan cards (because they are brand new Intel or BroadComm)
  3. XP can't detect any sound cards (because they are brand new bleeding edge tech. 7.1)
  4. XP shows up in 800x600 on a 1600x1200 display...

That's sooo HOT.... NOT...
...and pls. don't give me that shitty comparision with a preconf. system... that is like comparing peaches with bananas. ...and the 1. one is a real pain in the ass... XP insist on loading disk drivers from... YOU guessed it... floppy disks... but where do I find a bleeding edge tech. laptop with a fucking floppy drive ?

Re:Linux Niche (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473142)


> And then you want to get your sound working on your newer laptop? Well,
> go find the brand new beta development source code for your driver and

      Oddly enough, the last 3 laptops I've tried this on have been
absolutely no trouble at all. 2 of them weren't even purchased
with Linux in mind. They just managed to work "perfectly and out
of the box" just out of sheer luck.

> Okay, where do I set the wireless password? I know I saw that
> somewhere before. Oh, the Dlink-chip-du-jour isn't supported
> out of the box, I have to go find some more development drivers
> for it, if I can.

        Wireless is a pain in the ass, period. This isn't really
a Linux problem. Wifi just isn't really ready for the masses.
I would never dream of attempting to subject the "novice Windows
user" to wireless networking. It's inherent unreliability will
just keep the novice in a state of constant gratuitous panic.

        n00bs are bad enough when it comes to just general internet
flakiness.

> Hmmmm, how do I suspend this and hibernate it properly? I know
> that was trivial under windows. Can I even do that under Linux?

        Given how long it takes a Windows box to put itself back
together when waking up from hibernation I am not sure this is
a net gain for Windows actually.

[deletia]

> Now, time for a presentation; install openoffice, that works fine,
> good. Okay, now to switch to external monitor. Hmmm, Fn-Monitor
> doesn't work. Time to google. WTF? I have to edit xorg.conf to enable
> the external monitor, and then hack mode lines to get it working for
> my projector? (Reaches for Windows XP CD...)

This last bit is simply a fantasy.

Your rant might play a bit better if there weren't those of us that deal with much if not all of this stuff on both platforms on a daily basis. The dominance of WinDOS is handy that way.

Re:Linux Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473368)

Do I want ALSA or that other sound system, can't remember its name?

This goes to show just how out of date your rant is. ALSA was introduced into the mainline kernel way back in 2002. Mainstream distros have been using it almost as long. No desktop distro to my knowledge has even offered the choice between it and OSS, they just use one or the other.

Re:Linux Niche (3, Informative)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473456)

I just recently installed Ubuntu (Edgy Eft) on a brand new laptop. I found no previous testimonials or guides about the model I chose, but googling seemed to indicate that all the components had drivers. While I did have a couple of issues that made installation not quite as painless and grandparent, your post severely understates how far Linux has gotten.

And then you want to get your sound working on your newer laptop?

Worked with ALSA out of the box.

Okay, where do I set the wireless password? I know I saw that somewhere before.

Using Network Manager, there is a wireless icon in the top right of the window with a list of accessible networks. Selecting an encrypted one brings up a prompt for a password (the first time you use it).

Oh, the Dlink-chip-du-jour isn't supported out of the box, I have to go find some more development drivers for it, if I can.

Unfortunately, some hardware manufacturers give no Linux support at all, but in fact almost all wireless adapters work. Go with Centrino, and you will be fine.

Hmmmm, how do I suspend this and hibernate it properly?

Both worked perfectly out of the box.

Hmmm, where did my scrolling regions go on my trackpad?

They were enabled and working out of the box.

Now, time for a presentation; install openoffice, that works fine, good. Okay, now to switch to external monitor. Hmmm, Fn-Monitor doesn't work.

The hotkey for switching to external monitor worked out of the box, with all three modes (internal, external, both) working.

To this I can add (in response to others) that both my iPod and my Camera worked straight out of the box, as did Internet access over my bluetooth phone. The only thing I have run into which didn't work was an HP scanner - it turns out that scanners are a real quagmire with no uniform drivers and that HP give lousy support, a little Googling told me this and that an Epson would have worked...

Photoshop? (2, Insightful)

amyhughes (569088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472246)

How easy is it to install Photoshop on Linux? MS Office? iTunes? Logic? Vienna Symphonic Instruments?

Okay, so if I don't want to use the most popular online music store, never google for a tutorial on how to accomplish ___ with my graphics tools, don't like books, and don't need to exchange files with people who work for a living, there's always GIMP, OO and some programmerware media app I could use, and why would I want to compose music for orchestra on my computer?

Re:Linux Niche (3, Insightful)

Mung Victim (821757) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472614)

The difficulty of desktop Linux is really a myth these days

Yeah, bollocks is it.

It's a myth until you want to use an iPod or a digital camera, surely two of the most popular consumer devices today after mobile phones. I have tried and failed to get both working on my desktop Linux system. If I can't do it, there's no way my Mum could. In the end I just bought a MacBook, and put my Linux machine in a cupboard.

Yes, I know that both of these things can be made to work, but honestly, most people just don't have the time or inclination to invest.

Neither of these problems with device interoperability is the fault of the Linux community, but it's hard to deny that they are problems. Especially as the number of such consumer devices can only increase.

Re:Linux Niche (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472820)

It's a myth until you want to use an iPod or a digital camera, surely two of the most popular consumer devices today after mobile phones. I have tried and failed to get both working on my desktop Linux system. If I can't do it, there's no way my Mum could. In the end I just bought a MacBook, and put my Linux machine in a cupboard.

For your iPod, use Amarok. It works very nicely with iPods, as well as being one of the best music players on any platform.

As for your digital camera, well, every one I've ever tried just worked, but apparently you have an obscure one that doesn't. Someday Linux will get popular enough that hardware vendors support it, but until then there's some pain that's simply unavoidable, particularly when vendors refuse to follow the established standards (for cameras, those are PTP and USB storage).

Re:Linux Niche (1)

Howserx (955320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473606)

My Canon powershot S1 IS Didn't work and it's not exactly a new camera. I would much rather be on linux but unfortunately there's too many barriers for me. SQL Server as far as I know doesn't have a Linux port. Don't bother to tell me about MySQL/Postgres/BrandX databases. Yes, they're great but I'm not the one making the decisions.

Re:Linux Niche (2, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473316)

It's a myth until you want to use an iPod or a digital camera. . .

Why didn't you purchase a music player/camera that handles files as it should; as a mass storage device?

Don't get me wrong, I understand your point, and even agree with it to an extent, but I have a valid point too. The root issue is really bad commercial interests combined with bad consumerism.

On the flip side, and a better example I think, I am in the process of setting up a small recording studio. I have my choice of going computer based, or dedicated console based.

If I go computer based I'm likely to use a Mac, because I can just boot it up, download Audacity, plug in an interface and start recording. With Linux, even though I have some familiarity with it, I will be facing days to weeks of just trying to find the information I need to start hacking the system into functionality; with no guarantee it will ever be fully functional the way I would like.

And I'd really rather spend that time being artisticly creative.

If I go dedicated console based you might think that my troubles were really over, just plug it in and works, but noooooooooo!

This gets back to my first point and illustrates that it isn't a Linux problem, it's a vendor problem.

The console I would be inclined to buy is a nifty little 24 track, but. . .it doesn't behave as a standard mass storage device. They have made up their own file system and codec and just to export as wav I have to burn it to CD first. Does this behavior sound familiar?

And it's obnoxious.

My alternate choice is a 32 track (capacity I don't really need) at nearly twice the cost (I'd rather spend that money on better mics and monitors, ya know, shit that will effect the sound), but it behaves properly as a storage device and handles wav natively. Transfer files by plugging in the cable, dragging and dropping.

And for all I know deep in their little hearts they both run on top of Linux. It isn't an OS problem, it's a vendor problem.

. . .the number of such consumer devices can only increase.

With the majority of them trying to find some sneaky way to fuck you out of a few pennies by using nonstandard this or that. I've got an idea; don't let them. Buy gear that operates properly.

And unlike my own predicament you could save money by not buying an iPod.

And then as a side effect there would be no Linux issue.

KFG

Re:Linux Niche (1)

bestiarosa (938309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473438)

I don't know about digi cameras but Ubuntu with Rhythmbox detected my Nano out-of-the-box.
Sorry there's no cure for bad luck.

Re:Linux Niche (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473362)

Yay you! You setup a desktop that will be obsolete and unsupported in 12 months. Is this really something we should be encouraging users to do?

12 months from today you'll either have to futz with your setup (something most users won't want to do) or stop receiving patches and updates.

This is one of the main reasons I'm moving my servers to Solaris.

Re:Linux Niche (1)

joe_cot (1011355) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472060)

As an admittedly non-initiate in linux (I run osx), this seems very much what linux is good for, rather than for a desktop os, where difficulty of setup would be a severe handicap.

To paraphrase:

Man #1: So, whatcha been up to since you left the orphanarium?
Man #2: Uh, living in a box, fighting the shakes. You?
Man #1: Selling kidneys, teeth, whatever falls out of me.
Man #2: Oh.
Man #1: Wow.
Man #3: How nice for you, Leela.
Woman: That's so good for a person with one eye.
Leela: Hey! You can't feel sorry for me! I'm a space captain and you're a bunch of losers.



In other words, those who actually use linux on the desktop know this isn't the case, and that it hasn't been for almost 10 years now. If we're thinking 10 years behind, I can say the same about the basis for your operating system (BSD).

So yes, in my present experience, linux's niche is on servers .... and on desktops, and on laptops, and on embedded devices ....

Re:Linux Niche (1)

joe_cot (1011355) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472078)

bah! that's supposed to be:
Man #1: So, whatcha been up to since you left the orphanarium?
Man #2: Uh, living in a box, fighting the shakes. You?
Man #1: Selling kidneys, teeth, whatever falls out of me.
Leela: And what am I up to, you ask? Why, I'm a very successful space captain.
Man #2: Oh.
Man #1: Wow.
Man #3: How nice for you, Leela.
Woman: That's so good for a person with one eye.
Leela: Hey! You can't feel sorry for me! I'm a space captain and you're a bunch of losers.


Damn html *watches karma go down the tube*

Re:Linux Niche (2, Insightful)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472424)

As an admittedly non-initiate in linux (I run osx), this seems very much what linux is good for, rather than for a desktop os, where difficulty of setup would be a severe handicap.

You should really try looking at a modern linux distro before making a blanket statement about the difficulty of setup for a desktop machine. I've installed Ubuntu and OpenSUSE at home recently, and as long as the hardware matches up ok (which it often times does, at least on desktops), there is little manual configuration to contend with.

The support community for Ubuntu is excellent, friendly, and helpful for times when things don't go smoothly.

Linux isn't perfect on the desktop, but with a little elbow grease (much less than my previous experiences with older versions of distros years ago) it comes together pretty nicely.

Re:Linux Niche (1)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472486)

I've always believed that open-source suffers from the in-house-tool mentality, which assumes the end user is extremely sophistacted.

You really should try all three of Red Hat, Suse and Ubuntu. Pick one, they are getting to be quite comparable to Windows on the desktop and certainly more secure and stable.

But more to the original post. Imagine if a corporation ever got their collective butts out of the FUD and had everyone use the same version of Linux and made all workstations part of a giant grid. Say this corp had 4000 employees...4,000 node grid and no big overheated datacenter.

Such a driver could be a "OSS Grid ERP/CRM"... it is coming, just isn't quite here yet. But (lucky) someone somewhere is probably working on that.

Perfect (1)

maximthemagnificent (847709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472916)

I posted my comment specifcally to get you Linux advocates interested.
So, now that you're here, why should I abandon osx for linux, specifically?
"It's not as hard to use as it used to be" needs to be improved upon, wouldn't
you agree?

What are they trying to prove ? (5, Insightful)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472020)

So a NEW system outperforms an OLD system. I fail to see how this is a news.

If they had compared a NEW mainframe with the NEW grid, then we would have been able to draw some conclusions about which one is better. But saying "We bought a new system, its better than the old one" proves nothing.

What they wanted to prove. (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472104)

the consulting group or whomwever spun up the new project wanted a paticular result so they aimed for it.

Most likely they didn't know how to program the mainframe to get the results they wanted but they did know how to use the solution they came up with

or

they knew how to do the mainframe side to the fullest potential of the machine but that wasn't cool enough so they redefined what good results were.

Re:What they wanted to prove. (1)

DoctorPepper (92269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472496)

Still, it's got to say something for the mainframe if 120 new Dell servers, running as a grid, offer only a 70% performance improvement.

Re:What they wanted to prove. (1)

kv9 (697238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472724)

Still, it's got to say something for the mainframe if 120 new Dell servers, running as a grid, offer only a 70% performance improvement.

it says it's 65% cheaper. how's that?

Re:What they wanted to prove. (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472864)

it says it's 65% cheaper. how's that?

The point is still valid. An old system having cost more than a new one isn't exactly news.

Re:What they wanted to prove. (0, Flamebait)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472712)

They probably got the performance benefits by effectively sidelining a bunch of mainframe luddites who haven't moved their skill sets forwards since 1985.

Seriously, the problem with mainframes has always been the mindset of the MF development staff, who resist change no matter what.

Costs (-1, Troll)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472112)

It would be intresting to see exactly what the cost to implement a new lameframe system with equivalent performance would cost. ANybody got some rough numbers?

The sidebar on the article says that interest in some products has gone up, including their ZAAP processor. From what I've seen, the reason for this is to get around the outrageous licencing costs on some of the software that base cost on the number of processors. These processors only run java, and don't get counted as 'processors' apparently.

Re:Costs (2, Interesting)

spookymonster (238226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473150)

[i]It would be intresting to see exactly what the cost to implement a new lameframe system with equivalent performance would cost. ANybody got some rough numbers?[/i]

That's kind of like asking "how much would a brand new 386 system cost to replace this old 386?".

According to my mainframe hardware charts, my company still has a 2066, which we use for an extremely low-volume business unit. The 2066-02 is pushing 10 years old, uses a 2 engine CPU complex (think SMP), and has a processing power rating of ~77 MIPS. For comparison, our standard box is a 2084 with an 8 engine complex, and a power rating of ~1600 MIPS.

Think of it this way; if someone told you they'd replaced a 386 with a handful of Palm pilots, would you really be impressed?

Re:What are they trying to prove ? (3, Interesting)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472124)

I agree that this isn't a good comparison of grid computing against modern mainframes... but I think that's more the fault of the post, not the article. I thought the article was still interesting though. It was interesting to learn a bit more about grid computing in a specific implementation and to see that companies are choosing alternatives to mainframes for massive processing tasks.

Re:What are they trying to prove ? (2, Interesting)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472328)

I agree. I'd be very disappointed if a 118-CPU RHEL Grid computer system with probably more than 200GB of RAM couldn't out-perform a 2-CPU system with 16GB running OS/390. (The IBM 2066-002 in its standard config only has 2GB I think.) Although I'm a little disappointed that it's only out-performing it by 70% (maybe they're using 4,200rpm 2.5" drives):
Internal tests have showed speed improvements in data-file processing of up to 70% over what the mainframe could provide.

Re:What are they trying to prove ? (4, Insightful)

Archtech (159117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472518)

Yes, you have put your finger on the glaring weakness in this story. Once you see that it was an OLD mainframe versus a PRESENT-DAY Linux grid, you realise that no useful conclusions can be drawn. (Although, as others have noted, the narrowness of the margin achieved suggests that the mainframe would win easily in a fair contest).

These "old-versus-new" comparisons are the stock-in-trade of marketing and PR departments, which are perpetually issuing press releases bragging that the latest Foowhatzit Humdinger 24-processor with thousands of GB of storage outperformed someone's 10-year old VAX or AS/400. To Slashdotters, that's a subdued "Wow!" (that they would attempt such barefaced trickery, that is) and on to something potentially interesting. But to the broad masses who know nothing about computers, it is quite impressive. PHB readers habitually skip over all the "techie details" anyway, so they probably come away with the desired message: "We need Foowhatzit Humdingers, and we need 'em now!"

People with arts degrees are big on quoting Mies van der Rohe's "God is in the details". Perhaps it's time they realised that "God is in the numbers" too.

Re:What are they trying to prove ? (3, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473352)

It's not just in IT - people in ALL industries want "new and shiny" over "old an and boring".

I recently had a request to install a new type of medical irradiator (products, not people)in lieu of an older model. The new one doesn't use a radioactive source, and instead uses xray tubes. It was the cat's ass - no radiation safety officer required, no NRC hassles, and another part of he company did an ROI and the results were great. But when I looked at the specs, the cycle time was slower, it had 1/2 the capacity, and the xray tube needed replacement after a certain number of cycles, and it wasn't a cheap part.

Skeptical, I requested a copy of the "ROI". It was a 2 page narrative saying how great the new unit was, and how the staff was so much more comfortable with it. Not a dollar sign to be found. So I ran my own ROI, with the criterion being a 10 year payback. Guess what: not only didn't it have a 10 year payback, it didn't have a payback EVER. The added maintenance costs, plus the added personnel due to the slower cycle times, never ever made up for the increased licensing costs and paperwork.

And it STILL took me 2 more months to explain to the end users why I wasn't going to buy the new unit.

Re:What are they trying to prove ? (3, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472608)

Besides, performance has never been the strong point of a mainframe. In fact most mainframes performance is laughable (a while ago IBM had to ask Seti@Home to remove the results for the early Z series because they were comparable with a 386SX. The primary selling points of a mainframe are the resource control and reliability.

Does the grid mentioned in the article offer the same level of PHB friendly resource control (CPU, IO, etc) for multiple concurrently running applications? Doubt it.

Does the grid mentioned in the article offer the same level of reliability and reproducibility of the result? I have some doubts. Most mainframes have 2+ CPUs doing the same task and either flagging a fault on differences or deciding who is right using a "voting" system. This is done on a per instruction basis and cannot be directly simulated in a grid. At best you can do per-task/procedure result comparison which is not the same as it will flag errors considerably later and has higher probability of overall error when using the same number of components.

Someone is either comparing apples and oranges, or being a fanboy or not knowing what mainframe is for or all of these at the same time.

Tall order (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472022)

It seems like a tall order to replace a 20 year old mainframe with a 118 CPU Linux grid... after all, rewriting millions of lines of code, testing, and transitioning both your IT and user workforce from Mainframe to something totally different ain't no small task. And that says nothing of any licensed products that may have been on the mainframe.

Interesting that someone did it, but I'd think each shop is it's own special case. I know it'd cost a huge chunk of change in my shop - to huge.

Why is this news? (1)

DrRevotron (994894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472040)

Everybody knows that low-cost x86 hardware en masse can easily outperform high-end solutions. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of those... ;)

New grid bests 20 yo mainfraime. News at 11. (1, Funny)

amyhughes (569088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472066)

So a brand new grid beat out a 20 year old mainframe. At a computationally-intensive task. I'm shocked.

Wow, I've got to check out these mainframes (2, Insightful)

ggruschow (78300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472072)

The mainframe is many years old and they only managed to beat it by up to 70% with 120 machines? Either that thing is awesome or they suck with their grid.

right tool for right job (5, Informative)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472080)

You use the mainframe when you want error recovery at every step of the way. One of them even runs two CPU pipelines in lockstep so that a failing CPU can be safely isolated without crashing the app that was running on it.

The mainframe also gives you nice IO and super-efficient virtualization.

Workload doesn't need all that? Gee, maybe it's not a workload for the mainframe.

Re:right tool for right job (4, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472194)

You are thinking of the old Tandem machines, I think they're called Himalaya now, or whatever. Those are failsafe machines which are supposed to have zero downtime on hardware problems.

The Mainframe discussed in the topic is an IBM one, most likely a predecessor of the current zSeries machines (OS/390).

So Linux beat it. I guess they just had tasks which weren't fit for large scale processing behemoths like mainframes anyway. I dare bet the Linux grid would be a lot slower if it had to batch processes a few hundred MB worth of data. And despite all the claims about Linux stability, mainframes boast far superious uptime (a few minutes of scheduled downtime a year and no unscheduled downtime; everything can be hotswapped, including CPU's and memory). Although the increase of real-time processing decreases the need for mainframes a bit, the ever increasing processing load still makes them invaluable to large companies.

Re:right tool for right job (2, Informative)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472472)

These features have been in the IBM mainframes for 15 years. I haven't seen a hardware failure take down a zSeries box in over ten.

On a somewhat related note, I wonder how much more floor space those 200 servers take up, and how much cooling they consume, compared to an IBM z9. It's about the size of a large refrigerator. Unless they're using blades, we're talking maybe 10x the floor space.

Re:right tool for right job (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472546)

Not to mention the admin time. Tools can automate the software admin for 200 boxes to a good extent, but you're also talking about 200 boxes of commodity-class hardware. The quality standards are lower than mainframe-class hardware, and you've got enough pieces that mtbf starts to factor in. I've heard that part of google's value is that they keep running with a goodly number of dead boxes in the cluster, just to reduce the physical admin load.

Re:right tool for right job (1)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472666)

we're talking maybe 10x the floor space.

You can fit 200 1U machines into 5 racks. According to TFA these guys have 49 4U machines in their production grid. Still comes in at 5 racks, so cut your estimate in half.

They do belch out a lot of heat, but a standard server room A/C unit should be able to handle it.. assuming a bunch of other stuff isn't already putting a load on it.

zSeries also has lockstep (1)

Bri3D (584578) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472578)

IBM zSeries also have two execution units in each processor unit which execute in lockstep. If results are different the processor repeats the execution. If failure continues the processor will defer the instructions to another processor unit and disable the failing processor unit. This reliability, superior I/O throughput, and a tried-and-tested system is the advantage of the mainframe.

Re:right tool for right job (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472582)

You are thinking of the old Tandem machines, I think they're called Himalaya now, or whatever. Those are failsafe machines which are supposed to have zero downtime on hardware problems. The Mainframe discussed in the topic is an IBM one, most likely a predecessor of the current zSeries machines (OS/390).

No, he's thinking of standard z-series IBM mainframes. They behave as he described. HP's NonStop (prev. Tandem) is just a different operating environment with someone different HA characteristics.

Re:right tool for right job (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473556)

AFAIK, zSeries will detect problems in the hardware, then move the load to other hardware when it detects a problem, dumping the process that was using the hardware during the problem. NonStops are supposed to keep the process running on the redundant hardware so real-time transactions should never suffer from hardware failure. It's quite rare to find an application which requires that level of reliability, though, especially considering the cost.

A small 4 year old 'mainframe' is slow. Ok (2, Informative)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472086)

a 2066-002 is midway up the 'Baby Freeway' z800 mainframe line. It has 2 CP's and benchmarks 1.0-1.2x the performance of a 9672-R36 itself a 4-5 year old model in the middle of the pack.

Re:A small 4 year old 'mainframe' is slow. Ok (1)

hobohro (968930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472174)

Well Said. Even the TOP of the line 2066 has only 4 CPs. How can this be compared to 100+?

we don't need mainframes, but standalones may lack (4, Interesting)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472114)

what we need is "multiframes"

Consider an virual operating system, that can run on one or more other operating systems. This operating system is actually a set of nodes, one node per machine (or one node per CPU), with command nodes and worker nodes.

Command nodes distribute the workload and exist for redundancy. If one goes down, all others have a backup of it's data and state, and the next most senior node takes over.

Worker nodes then take the tasks and interface with the users via a standard shell.

Files can be distributed amongst the nodes for speed and redundancy, and if a node that needs a file doesn't have it, ant can request the file and temporarily have it locally. Each node will have a list of what files exist, and where they exist.

UI tasks are written to run solely on the machine of the user, but data crunching tasks are written to be split between nodes.

Thus, a person just goes to his or her machine, and interacts with it like a normal machine, except, rather than having a logon for his machine, he or she will have a logon for the multiframe.

Also, because of this setup, a multifram could work on top of multiple operating systems (say an office that is 50% windows for the normal users, and then 35% Linux for the devs, 10% FreeBSD for other devs, 5% HPUX/Sun for some server, and all machines coudl contribute to the multiframe.

The multifram could also have recorded statistics of uptimes and drops for various nodes, performance statistics for load balancing, etc.

The caveat to this system is that it would need some pretty heavy networking, even if optimised, and there could be latency issues. Still, I like this idea better than a mainframe.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472172)

This would be called a Linux cluster or Beowulf surely. Thats basically what they do...

Check out OSCAR or ROCKs clustering software. Run them inside vmware and your done.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472186)

ahh, ok, I'll have to look to see if BSD has something similar. My experiences administrating Linux has been less than pleasing.

So, do apps have to be written speciall for it?

I.E: an interface app is called, and it splits the work load up, and sends it to sub-apps on the various nodes?

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472224)

I'm trying to look them up right now, my other question is, can they run on an extremely hetrogenous network (i.e. multiple processor architechtures, multiple system performance speeds/data-storage size, and multiple operating systems all on the same network as base nodes?)

The idea is that instead of a company buying a $50k server, it can instead use the $50k of desktops it has for it's employees to be the server, saving them all of that money, and potentially giving them better performance, redundancy, stability and IO.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472576)

So..... every end users desktop, no matter what applications they are running at the time, is also responsible for the mainframe application?

Maybe you can add some reliability with hardware partitioning, but that doesn't sound like an efficient solution at all.

PC desktops are not as energy efficient as servers, so what happens when 50% of the employees turn off their workstations at night?

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472620)

the energy efficiency is a good point, so there are a lot of factors that go into it, I agree. In this cas, at night you might loose roughly 50% of your computing power.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472288)

Aboeba [wikipedia.org] maybe?

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472438)

Not quite. The idea would be that

Matt and Mindy in marketing use Windows.
Fred and Francine in Financial Management use VMS on their little alpha workstations (they are old fashioned).
Dan and Donna in development use Linux,
while
David and Denise in development use BSD

Now, Oscar and Oliva in operations use the mainfram (accessing it through their windows boxes).

What they don't know is that their mainframe is actually a distributed operating system running on Matt's, Mindy's, Fred's, Francine's, Dan's, Donna's, David's, Denise's, and their machines, just using up the spare cycles and splitting the data.

any compiled tasks (C, C++, D, etc) have to be compiled separately for each arch, true, though scripted (python, ruby, perl, etc) only need to be compiled once. All the spare CPU power is utlized.

It's kindof like TFA, except that it can be integrated into any architecture, and that mainframe would still be ustilized in mainstream work.

Basically the users would actually run "splitter programs", which would split the tasks, then send commands to the OS. The OS would then split these commands amongst the nodes as it sees fit, the commands themsevles would do all the processing.

It seems complex at first, but it's basically modular programming with the "splitter program" being the interface, and the logic control segment (except much of the logic control is handled by the OS saving time and effort), and the commands are the calculating programs. Some control programs (like the compression example) would simply be passthroughs and have no actual logic except to take the command, spit out progress reports, and say "done".

It would not neces to change the entire operating system, though some programs would require varying levels of rewrites, and most programs would require some amount of network programming.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472500)

This is sort of what we've been looking at for a while. We have a Linux grid, and there's a project now to hook our mainframe, running Linux, into it. The work units are all Java, so the biggest headache has been to get the vendors to port the parts of the management software that are in C.

Re:we don't need mainframes, but standalones may l (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472580)

So instead of an OS/hardware loc, you have an application-environment lock (java). My thought is to get rid of even that.

Sounds like underperforming software (3, Insightful)

16Chapel (998683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472154)

It sounds like a Linux grid is an excellent solution here - however, it also sounds like their software is not exactly performing perfectly:

This was especially the case when the IT staff had to accommodate new business requirements such as a car dealership adding a new type of vehicle to its inventory. Each update required a major rework of the program

Really?

Frankly that sounds like the software is in severe need of reworking! If their machines are 20 years old that's bad enough, but if they have 20 year-old software that needs to be rewritten every time a new type of car is added, it's time for a redesign.

Re:Sounds like underperforming software (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472368)

Good lord, I have to agree. That's inexcusably crappy design for thirty years ago, much less now. No damn wonder they 'beat' the old machine. They really beat the old, crappy coding.

Wonder if they would have done as well against a well-designed application?

Re:Sounds like underperforming software (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472552)

>software that needs to be rewritten every time a new type of car is added

You call it poor design; they call it... job security?

Year of the Mainframe? (5, Insightful)

dbneeley (1043856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472214)

As others have pointed out, the comment left a great deal out.

For example, any mainframe that can be replaced by 120 PC compute nodes isn't well utilized and/or is completely outmoded.

I had a chat with a gentleman once who participated in a replacement of multiple PC servers with a mainframe--but it entailed replacing 7,000 servers with a relatively high-end machine.

The result was that power and real estate savings alone paid for the mainframe--which had more capacity for future expansion as needed.

As always, proper implementation of the right equipment for the job is always crucial--and a shallow analysis that doesn't cover all the variables is simply misleading at best.

The dirty litle secret about Mainframes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472404)

Mainframes only continue to be used because the people who maintain those systems are secretive and protective and have some warped notion of job security, i.e. they won't tell you anything that might make them have to learn or do something else.

It's like that Dilbert comic where he asks some programmer why he never sees him do anything yet he keeps his job and the programmer responds something to the effect of 'I'm the only one who knows how this undocumented systems with 1 millions lines of spaghetti code works'.

Mainframes are dead. Update you skill set and get out of the way of progress.

Re:The dirty litle secret about Mainframes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472432)

"Update you skill set and get out of the way of progress"

Update your brain and start to understand that replacing one unique computer with 30 of them is not progress....it's just because it cost less....

nice spin... (1)

zozzi (576178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472654)

"IBM touted 2006 as a resurgence year for the mainframe, but not so fast."

IBM are also heavily investing in Grids, particularly with their support of the Globus Alliance Toolkit (see http://www.globus.org/ [globus.org] )

Crazy? No, they are aiming at different targets. Mainframes are controlled by individual companies, grids are hoped to eventually be the equivalent of TCP - ubiquitous, reliable and cheaply available everywhere. That means your next Windows Vista T1000, Ubuntu Beam-me-up (TM) and self-aware toaster will seamlessly provide services to allow you to participate in grid-like problems just like any appliance. No more downloading the google toolbar to help cancer research, another app for cracking encryption, another app for predicting weather and so on...

Re:nice spin... (0)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473066)

The answer is clear! A Beowulf cluster of Mainframes!!

Single Threaded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17472686)

Some algorithms are not parallelizable. For all those algorithms you want a single processor that can run as fast as possible. Clusters are no better than a single machine from the cluster. I assume that some kind of mainframe is the way to go. Any comments?

Mainframes are not for everyone (2, Insightful)

TheSuperlative (897959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472802)

It sounds to me like a mainframe is still probably the best fit for this organization. Few solutions can match the efficiency, streamlined-goodness of an IBM mainframe. Where I work, a city government, we run two fairly beefy iSeries (AS/400s), one that runs accounting, utility billing and operation, and income tax operations, and another that runs public safety operations. I love them. No down time - ours are brought down about once a year, and usually that is because the power is out and our generators are about to run out of juice. Hands down the most stress-free aspect of our operation. That alone is worth something. The users also love it for the most part. While IBM's client access can be intimidating for most users at first (text!?!? what is this, the 70's?), once they adjust to it they tend to love how quickly one can skate through repetitive tasks. Nevertheless, it is not for everyone. If you don't have tons of data that needs to be reliably and efficiently accessed all day everyday, then you're probably better off going elsewhere. If anything, because most users, who can barely log in to windows reliably, find client access to be something of a magic black box that they cannot begin to comprehend (my favorite help desk call: "can you flip the magic switch for me?"). At the same time, I've seen the same users who can still barely operate a mouse, open a AS/400 session and go to town like a computer virtuoso. I guess what I'm trying to say is, IBM mainframe solutions definitely have their ups and downs, but for the right applications, they are irreplaceable.

Re:Mainframes are not for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17473686)

And Fujitsus VME machines beat IBM mainframes hands down.

I can say this as I work at a place where they've been trying to replace the VME mainframes with IBM mainframes for a decade. The IBM machines just don't have anything like the same ability to perform rollbacks or handle the same transaction processing (TP) workload as the VME machines.

So every year we get the big announcement that a vital service will be replaced by some new "industry standard" service on an IBM machine. And about two days later we're firmly back on the VME machines after a days downtime.

With VMEs file also system featuring the delights of file generations it's also utterly superior for anything involving file processing.

Ho ho.

Do they mean a cluster (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17472944)

Forgive me if I'm not up on the latest jargon, but what's the difference between a grid and a cluster?

Re:Do they mean a cluster (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473340)

From these guys' results, it sounds like a grid is a badly implemented computational cluster. You also get redundant clusters and load balancing clusters.

Re:Do they mean a cluster (1)

CagedBear (902435) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473398)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cluster [wikipedia.org]
Grid computing or grid clusters are a technology closely related to cluster computing. The key differences between grids and traditional clusters are that grids connect collections of computers which do not fully trust each other, and hence operate more like a computing utility than like a single computer. In addition, grids typically support more heterogeneous collections than are commonly supported in clusters.

I would also add that failover clusters are very common in businesses of all sizes to improve uptime of an application. Grids and high performance clusters are used for speciality purposes and not nearly as common.

Re:Do they mean a cluster (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473490)

In the areas I've worked, we usually use cluster to mean a number of machines that share the load of a task in a way that allows for failover. We normally put a lot of thought into the design of the cluster and all machines do one task.

A big plus side to clusters is the fact that each machine in the cluster normally knows enough about its role to operate in the absence of all of the others.

I've only used grids for computationally intensive tasks. Failover and recovery is something that we just got for free as a nice side benefit. a grid, each engine may perform multiple different tasks at different times. It might be a workstation from 9-5 and an engine from 6-8. It might be a proxy server during the day and become available for grid work at 19:00. But best of all, we don't need to reboot, we just have the agent running all the time.

Another big plus side to grids is that we can easily add and remove engines. We don't meticulously plan the number of engines when building a grid and more can be added with very little effort. We can have x engines dedicated to the grid, and for our month-end run we can up that by 50%.

A downside to most of the grid solutions that I've worked with, they are controlled by a couple of machines. The engines are just dumb processing things that carry out the work as it is allocated to them. They don't know enough about their environment to deal with clients, take work, farm it out, etc. Without the main machines that control the grid, it becomes useless.

It's not just about speed (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473038)

Mainframes are not only bought for performance, but for the whole framework they have.
Mainframes have great ways to execute batch-jobs which most Linux systems still lack.

Linux just seems to be more suitable for near realtime things like desktop computers or workstations, perhaps smaller servers like Google uses them.

So essentially it doesn't matter if there are clusters of smallers computers cheaper and more powerfull than mainframes, mainframes still will be sold.

In a prior life ... (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473448)

... a long time ago, in a galaxy ...

I was a vendor SE who had occasion to visit R. L. Polk. There are customers who are "bleeding edge" customers, always looking for ways that the latest and greatest technology can give them an advantage in their business operations, and there are customers who are "junkyard" customers, who see everything as an expense, and only have the cheapest, oldest junk on the floors in their data centers.

Cost is the only metric for such customers, of whom R. L. Polk was one such (a long time ago, and it's possible that they have changed, but I doubt it, as it takes tremendous capital investment to dig oneself out of that sort of hole, and that's exactly the thing that these sort of companies will simply *not* do).

Given that as ancient hardware decays, the maintenance costs soar, I'm not surprised that a "junkyard" operation would find that aging mainframes are better replaced by a room full of PCs. But as to the performance improvements, I suspect that most of the credit there goes to the rewrite of the old mainframe apps written in COBOL, PL/I and assembler -- and if they had performed a rewrite in place, the observed performance improvements would have occurred on the mainframe as well.

This is a recurring problem with evaluating many of the mainframe-to-PC conversions. In the process of converting to run in the new environment, application programs that are several decades old benefit enormously from the rewrite necessary to operate in the new environment. The fact that they were converting assembler programs tells you something about the age of their software base. The fact that they were converting COBOL tells you something about the likely efficiency of their software.

Gahhh, again with the mainframe bashing. (1)

Bright Apollo (988736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17473570)

Linux is an operating system. Mainframes are complete hardware solutions, which, by the way, can run Linux better than nearly any other hardware setup. I/O on a mainframe is probably the biggest advantage it has over any other solution, and will continue to have, because IBM has been refining it for 40 years.

As for the knocks on COBOL, write some non-trivial solutions with it and get back to me. You'll change your tune, I'm sure. I've written BASIC, COBOL, C, C++, Assembler for 390s and x86, Java, and a bucketful of scripting language solutions. The COBOL apps all crushed the other 3GLs simply because you can't beat an Amdahl mainframe for running through 16 million records each night during a production run. The COBOL compilers from IBM are probably the best compilers in the business, again benefiting from something like 35 years of refinement.

But hey, go out and buy 30 servers. Patch them, power them, rack them, cool them. Manage that. Meanwhile, the mainframe will stay up and running. Much more job security for me, and I'm still 15 years from retirement.

-BA

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