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Debian Cluster Replaces Supercomputer For Weather Forecasting

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the when-it-rains-it-pours dept.

Debian 160

wazza brings us a story about the Philippine government's weather service (PAGASA), which has recently used an eight-PC Debian cluster to replace an SGI supercomputer. The system processes data from local sources and the Global Telecommunication System, and it has reduced monthly operational costs by a factor of 20. Quoting: "'We tried several Linux flavours, including Red Hat, Mandrake, Fedora etc,' said Alan Pineda, head of ICT and flood forecasting at PAGASA. 'It doesn't make a dent in our budget; it's very negligible.' Pineda said PAGASA also wanted to implement a system which is very scalable. All of the equipment used for PICWIN's data gathering comes off-the-shelf, including laptops and mobile phones to transmit weather data such as temperature, humidity, rainfall, cloud formation and atmospheric pressure from field stations via SMS into PAGASA's central database."

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hmm (-1, Redundant)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748460)

yeah, but does it run herd?

Re:hmm (4, Funny)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748470)

that would be HURD

Re:hmm (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748480)

and it's not even finished, why would they put it on a production cluster?

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

Bigos (857389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748474)

it's a cluster, in other words a herd of computers :-)

Re:hmm (3, Funny)

nacule (1249808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748700)

More importantly, is it Vista capable?

Re:hmm (1)

timrichardson (450256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748904)

My HP calculator is Vista Capable. It has a sticker that says so.

Re:hmm (4, Funny)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748910)

More importantly, is it Vista capable?
Yes, but only home basic.

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749306)

since it is a cluster that would be correct, a herd of hurd...

Debian? (-1, Troll)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748468)

Why Debian? A desktop distro? That's got to be one of the least scalable and cluster-friendly distros. If they would invest a little to set things up properly they could get a lot more performance out of their machines.

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

ketamine-bp (586203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748492)

i would suppose that debian is quite a versatile distro for any purpose...

-- from a debian user... who actually started quite late with potato....

Re:Debian? (-1, Offtopic)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748528)

Its versatility costs it performance. The binary package management really says it all.. you shouldn't be running anything but compiled source on a performance cluster.

Re:Debian? (4, Funny)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748730)

you shouldn't be running anything but compiled source on a performance cluster.
you wouldn't be running anything but source compiles on a performance cluster. :p

Re:Debian? (5, Informative)

Bronster (13157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748778)

The binary package management really says it all.. you shouldn't be running anything but compiled source on a performance cluster.

Wow - how many performance clusters do you run again?

Not that I run a "performance cluster" as such - but I do run a bunch of machines that are very busy, all on Debian.

You know what? We compile the couple of programs where CPU is the bottleneck from source. We also compile Cyrus IMAP from source because we apply a pile of patches, but if someone else was packaging up all those patches in upstream, I'd be happy for them to be compiled there. Disk IO is the issue with Cyrus, and a custom compile won't help with that.

Yeah, we build our own kernels as well - that's another point that's worth the effort to customise. /bin/ls though? I don't think it matters to anyone on a high performance cluster. Just so long as the cluster apps are optimised then the rest is just noise - better to have a system that's less work for your administrators so they can concentrate on what's important.

Re:Debian? (4, Insightful)

SuperQ (431) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748856)

Exactly, My job is running high performance computing clusters. You don't need to put much effort into your cluster distribution at all. As long as it's stable, and gets the job done, why mess with it.

The things I (and my co-workers) put a lot of optimization effort into is the kernel and our apps. You're exactly right.. 99.9% of our CPU cycles go into getting work done, and that 0.1% used by /bin/ls don't matter a bit.

Re:Debian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22748780)

I'm guessing their critical application was actually compiled. I doubt the system software would benefit from any extensions to the processor instruction set over i686 or whatever Debian packages are compiled for. The truth about Gentoo, e.g., is that the performance gain is often negligible. That being said, I still love Gentoo.

Re:Debian? (2, Insightful)

Apro+im (241275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749122)

Hmmm... 0 to Gentoo/Slack fanboyism in like... 4 comments.

I know people who know a fair amount about running clusters. None of them want the headache of dealing with the random-ass unexpected conflicts that arise out of having the explosion of possibilities for custom compiling for each server. Also, nobody wants to use their precious "performance cluster" cycles compiling every update. If you really need to compile tweaks (for the important stuff only), you do it offline, once, and then build a *binary* package to distribute to your nodes.

Re:Debian? (4, Funny)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749696)

Give the guy a break. He just wanted to see Gentoo compile in less than 2 weeks; he had a cluster handy...

Re:Debian? (2, Insightful)

Lillesvin (797939) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749436)

How fortunate that apt/dpkg handles source packages so well then... Punching in 'apt-get -b source <whatever>' is not a whole lot harder than 'port install <whatever>' or whatever you prefer, is it? I know, I know... Don't feed the troll... Sorry.

Re:Debian? (3, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748612)

Actually I don't like Debian much as a desktop machine, but I love it as a number cruncher OS. I've had a 10 machine openmosix cluster going for several years now, problem free.

Stability is a major thing with Debian, and my experience has been that this is quite true.

Re:Debian? (1)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749410)

10 computers over several years? Greenpeace are gonna be hunting you down like sailors to whales!http://forumpix.co.uk/i.php?I=1205492846 [forumpix.co.uk]

Re:Debian? (4, Informative)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748510)

Actually, Debian is intended for servers and runs on more architectures than any other distro. The whole reason for the long testing cycle on Debian is to make sure it's as stable as possible so it can sit on a server and need little or no attention for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

I hated Debian at first because it wasn't friendly, but I looked into it more and realized it was the best choice I could make for my production servers. I can set them up and check once a week or so and they're still chugging along without need of intervention.

I wouldn't use Debian on my desktop (I use Kubuntu), but it can't be beat for servers.

It's NOT a desktop distro. Especially compared to Mandr* or Ubuntu or many others out there.

Re:Debian? (5, Informative)

Thijssss (655388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748654)

Debian works out just fine for these kind of tasks. Here in the Netherlands the national compute cluster Lisa runs on Debian (http://www.sara.nl/userinfo/lisa/description/index.html) with 800~ to a 1000 nodes (I think the page needs updating by now).

Re:Debian? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749066)

Actually, Debian is intended for servers and runs on more architectures than any other linux distro.

Fixed it.

Re:Debian? (2, Informative)

chthon (580889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749284)

Every time I want to install Ubuntu on some random machine, it fails. I always have to go back to Debian.

I have Debian currently installed for my father and my sister. Spares me the headaches of Windows problems. The only support I need to deliver to them is giving information about performing tasks.

Re:Debian? (1)

beefsprocket (1152865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750026)

Lenny is absolutely a desktop distro as well. In fact, pretty much any Debian testing has been suitable in that role for years.

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748522)

Debian, like most distros, is what you want it to be. Debian is used regularly as a server OS.

I doubt they have X installed on these machines.

Re:Debian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22748678)

The article says it has the stability compared to Red Hat and the others.

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

gullevek (174152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748704)

Debian is sure not a desktop distribution. Ubuntu would be one. I run Debian on all my servers.

Re:Debian? (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748786)

I run ubuntu-server on my servers. Keeps packages in sync with my desktop
so I can test things locally, but has slight differences in defaults.

Re:Debian? (1)

gullevek (174152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749184)

I do the same with debian actually. Well Ubuntu comes from Debian so there wont be a big difference I guess :)

Re:Debian? (2, Informative)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749282)

Nope, it's one big, happy family :)

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748870)

I don't get why every one is saying it's not for desktop. It runs great on my T60. Everything works fine: sleep, mouse, red nub, wireless, sound, screen brightness, Blue-tooth. I guess I have never used the media buttons...

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748942)

They never said it can't be used for desktop. They are just saying that it isn't primarily aiming for desktop use and works very well on servers, debating the original posters claim.

Re:Debian? (2, Insightful)

gullevek (174152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749238)

I never said it doesn't work on a desktop. I use it here on mine right now. It's just not as easy to setup as Ubunutu I think.

Re:Debian? (5, Insightful)

mortonda (5175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748808)

Why Debian? A desktop distro? That's got to be one of the least scalable and cluster-friendly distros..
Keep going, I was expecting to hear you claim Windows XP was a server OS next...

Not sure why you call Debian a desktop distro, it's much more useful as a server.

Re:Debian? (4, Insightful)

rolfc (842110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748836)

You obviously doesn't have a clue about Debian. Debian has been a fine server since 1995, and I still choose it before RHEL anyday. I have always found it strange that everyone went for RedHat, when they could have Debian. Mark S. saw the advantages of Debian and based Ubuntu on it, Ubuntu is a server and a desktop distro, based on Debian. It has made more people realize the strength of the Debian approach.

Why debian when you can have Slackware? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749598)

And customise absolutely everything yourself.

Re:Why debian when you can have Slackware? (3, Insightful)

rolfc (842110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749680)

You customise absolutely everything yourself in Debain too, but when you have more than 50 servers running, thats not what you want. In that situation you want something dependable, stable that let you do other things. In Debian you don't ever have to reinstall, you just upgrade. I started out with Slackware, if I remember right, but since I started using Debian in 1995, I have not seen a better server,and during that time I have used quite a few. No one has served me better than Debian.

Re:Debian? (4, Interesting)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749096)

Why Debian? A desktop distro? That's got to be one of the least scalable and cluster-friendly distros. If they would invest a little to set things up properly they could get a lot more performance out of their machines.

Debian isn't - and never has been - a desktop distro. If you want a desktop distro built on Debian architecture, you get Ubuntu, or Knoppix, or one of a dozen others. Debian's unique selling proposition is a combination of stability, which is very important to production servers, and a rigorous commitment to free software. Packages don't make it into Debian Stable until they have been thoroughly tested. Debian also has the best package management system in the industry.

Frankly, I wouldn't run a server with anything else.

Re:Debian? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749686)

hahahahaha! That is why WE rule the world! We don't have to waste time discussing: will we install WindowsB, or WindowsC, or even perhaps WindowsD?
You linux geeks waste too much time fighting within your own camp... You should all be praising it and not be fighting like Democrat pre-candidates...

Re:Debian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750092)

what are you, a communist? **ducks**

Re:Debian? (3, Insightful)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749790)

While Ubuntu might be friendlier, and be more polished, I'd like to say that Debian is perfectly workable as a desktop os. (Started with a base install that didn't even appear to come with less, moved onto fluxbox when I wanted a gui, moved back to kde because I missed it).

It just takes a little more effort if you do something pointless like start out with just the min install.

Re:Debian? (1)

cloakable (885764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750118)

Yep, Debian base install has more, not less. They do have vim, though ;)

disturbance in the force (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749326)

I felt a great disturbance in the force - as if millions of geeks had ROFl'ed and then were silent.

dent in the budget (1)

alxkit (941262) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748476)

can anything that is "free" put a dent in ANY budget? if something gets bloated as it ages - dump it and go to OLD VERSION. shiiiiit.

Re:dent in the budget (3, Informative)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748534)

Sure. Add in paying for tech support or the cost in man-hours it takes to keep it running. Both can make a serious dent where nobody expected to see one.

Re:dent in the budget (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22748562)

I'm sure that if they can manage an ancient SGI supercomputer, they can easily manage Debian. I've been using it since woody, and I must say, compared to many other distros, Debian is easy to manage. Not only that, its reliability is second to none on the Linux platform. I have a machine that's been running the same Debian install since the days of woody, all up-to-date with Etch. Not a single problem with it, runs a lot better than an XP desktop I have, which has needed 2 reinstalls in the past year, or Gentoo, which frequently breaks when packages fail to compile.

Re:dent in the budget (3, Insightful)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749308)

Sure. Add in paying for tech support or the cost in man-hours it takes to keep it running. Both can make a serious dent where nobody expected to see one.

That's the big attraction for Debian. For a production system, support tasks drop to almost nothing. It's there. It runs. If and when a patch is needed, it is just that - a patch - and not any weird licensing changes or mutations in functionality.

Of the linux distros, it's an excellent choice for servers, perhaps the best. Given the rock-solid nature, it can be good for enterprise desktops, if you are willing to plan. However, Kubuntu LTS meets that need.

Re:dent in the budget (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749836)

In fact nobody familiar with debian expects them to need tech support more than they would with other OSes, if at all.

So, other choices = $$$ for licenses + $$$ for support.
Debian = likely less $$$ for support.

So the question is: how many mods are on crack today?

Re:dent in the budget (2, Insightful)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749082)

I guess he isn't referring to licensing costs for the various distributions not putting dents in his budget but rather the operating costs of their new cluster as a whole. The SGI machine seems to have dented the budget pretty badly while replacing it with a Linux (beowulf?) cluster polished those dents out to the extent of them being able to test various setups in addition to their cluster and still have a smoother budget.

Also, their supercomputer may just be outdated, not necessarily because of bloated software. I don't know how well SGI's products and support survived their recent bankrupcy, but I'd imagine not too well (though they seem to have built the Xeon-based #3 from the Top 500 recently).

I don't understand the difference (2, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748554)

How different can Debian really be compared to RedHat in terms of stability? They both use the Linux kernel, and GNU tools, and follow the LSB, no?

Re:I don't understand the difference (5, Informative)

elysium-os (998821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748584)

Many distro's add kernel patches and add different drivers to the initrd.
Also the core os ( most minimal installation ) has many different tools and libs.

Also at time of release they can pick from many different versions of a single package.
That in combination with what version of GCC and compile flags can and does make a huge differance.

And at least with Debian you really do know how the systems was build, with RedHat I still wonder...

Marcel

Re:I don't understand the difference (4, Informative)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748962)

You don't have to wonder with RedHat. Just look at the SRPMs and see what patches they've applied.

Re:I don't understand the difference (3, Informative)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748592)

Because each major distro, while they use the same base kernel, GNU command line tools, and same GNOME/KDE environment, can have radically different kernel extensions and drivers implemented by one distro doing development but not another. If you're using whatever GUI tools a distro provides, they can each configure the same backend very differently, which depending on how the tool writes the config file can also effect stability, security, and other functions. Also Fedora/RHEL and tends to use tools created or modified by Red Hat specifically while those aren't easily available for Debian or SuSe, which have their own tools in the same manner.

Re:I don't understand the difference (1)

cloakable (885764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750170)

I've been using Debian for a while now, and the main configuration tool is HBK - Human Behind Keyboard ;) Npt that I'm complaining - I'd rather write a config file, and KNOW that it's right.

Re:I don't understand the difference (5, Informative)

Xero_One (803051) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748724)

Debian will run multiple services reliably under heavy load. From my limited experience, it's one of those distros where you "Set It And Forget It" and that's that.

Once you got it configured the way you want it, there's little intervention involved to maintaining it. It'll just keep chugging along. The keyword there is "correctly". Follow the readmes, howtos, and best practices, and you're golden.

It's also one of the oldest distributions which always kept to the spirit of GNU/Linux in general: community development and enrichment. Debian developers pride themselves on that spirit. To make the best software for humans. (At least that's what I gather from hanging out with Debian folk) These people are not only passionate in the software that they write, they do it without wanting anything in return, being humble in the way they do it, and wanting no reward for doing it. To them, their reward is in other people using their software and loving it! In my opinion they're not recognized enough.

But what do I know? I just use the software.

Re:I don't understand the difference (1)

uassholes (1179143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749244)

According to http://www.top500.org/stats/list/30/os [top500.org] when the linux is identified, most are suse.

Re:I don't understand the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749386)

Just wondering...what, if anything, did they use to collect the data?

Re:I don't understand the difference (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749486)

The data is submitted by the owners, but it's not like anyone has any reason to lie about what they're running on their cluster.

SUSE and RedHat EL are the two Linux distributions you'd expect to see on a Top500 cluster. They administrators can be sure of good support from Novell or RedHat and there's little advantage in using anything else. Needless to say, 8 computers is not a Top500 cluster. I have test clusters that are powered off right now that have more than 8 nodes.

Re:I don't understand the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750164)

I think you meant OpenBSD. Must've been a typo.

Re:I don't understand the difference (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748812)

Also the stable version of Debian is very stable, as in it doesn't change. Security fixes are almost always backported so you don't wind up with new features or changed behaviours, etc. I don't follow Red Hat so I don't know much they differ in that regard, but when you have a server that's configured how you want it and working fine it's really nice to know that if you install a security update it's not going to change any of the functionality.

In addition, packages go from unstable through testing and sit in testing for quite a long time before a stable release occurs, so they're generally pretty stable, well tested and any bugs / problems etc. are well known by the time they're released.

Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22748626)

How is that news? You can get an 8 way workstation for $1,000 nowadays. Big deal. No innovation in networking or storage either. And RedHat is the better distro, good luck managing 2,000 nodes with Debian and have fun when an apt-get update destroys all of them. Piece of cake with RHN. RedHat is better built too and with tested packages that offer consistency. And by the way, no sane person would use gcc to compile his "high performance" code. There is a reason why there are compilers like PGI's and Intel's.

meh!

Re:Right... (2, Informative)

aquarajustin (1070708) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748676)

All I can say is that I enjoy running Debian servers and RHEL clients at my work... and you're a douche...

One thing always missing from such stories... (5, Interesting)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748628)

What was the age and the specs of the SGI being replaced?

Going by Moore's law, a factor of 20 performance improvement takes about 6 to 8 years. If the SGI was at least that old, this isn't news -- it's just the state of the art these days. In other words, small clusters capable of weather forcasting are relatively run-of-the-mill.

Of course, props to linux for being the enabler in this case.

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (4, Funny)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748722)

6 to 8 years, you say? Well, then, they'll be ready to upgrade about the time the next version of Debian is released.

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749242)

Debian "unstable" Sid is upgraded every day, or at least several times per week.

Debian "testing" is upgraded several times a month.

Debian "stable" is upgraded every one or two years.

Take your pick.

I chose "unstable" which is stable enough to be on my home machine. I have never had any serious issues, so far, after one year of usage.

For a production server I would use "stable" but for a research machine the "unstable" looks like a good choice. I guess the people who built it would know what to do.

The only one I have avoided is "Debian experimental"... :)

http://www.debian.org/ [debian.org] for the world

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (4, Informative)

IkeTo (27776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749474)

This is inaccurate, as a long time Debian user I really cannot resist in correcting them.

> Debian "unstable" Sid is upgraded every day, or at least several times per week.

True.

> Debian "testing" is upgraded several times a month.

Wrong. Debian testing is updated automatically from packages in Debian unstable. The difference is simply that a package has to sit in Debian unstable for a few days, and no significant bugs can be introduced by the new package, before it is updated. Since the process is automatic, Debian testing is updated just slightly less continuously as unstable (it depends on the robot to check the package dependencies and bug reports rather than the maintainer to upload a new version).

The only time when the update rate is seen as low as less than that is when testing is in deep freeze, i.e., a new stable is about to be created.

> Debian "stable" is upgraded every one or two years.

It usually takes slightly longer than two years.

> The only one I have avoided is "Debian experimental"... :)

You cannot have a pure "Debian experimental" system. Debian experimental are subsystems that could have profound effect on the rest of the system, and so is provided for trial in isolation. E.g., back in the Gnome 1 to Gnome 2 transition days, or XFree 3 to XFree 4 days, these subsystems are tested in experimental before moving to unstable. These packages are supposed to be used on top of or to replace some unstable packages. Since they affects one particular subsystem, experienced testers can try one particular one based on their needs.

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (1)

Gutboy (587531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748784)

a factor of 20 performance improvement takes about 6 to 8 years

It was a cost reduction of a factor of 20, not a performance improvement.

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749162)

It was a cost reduction of a factor of 20, not a performance improvement.
Err.. if the old SGI had 400 CPUs and the new cluster needs 20 CPUs to match its performance, then new cluster performs the same at 1/20th the cost.

I know this is an over-simplification, the SGI probably used vector processors and relied a lot less on parallel-processing, cost-per-processor and number of processors will be completely skewed from my example if that's the case, yada yada yada.. but you get the point I hope..

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749272)

somehow i doubt that linux is so amazingly fast that eight machines on a gigabit local network could replace a supercomputer. so they replaced an old sgi 02 with a few 1u servers. how is this interesting?

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (1)

TwoCans (255524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749424)

> What was the age and the specs of the SGI being replaced?

Well, RTFA:

"Previously, for almost a decade PAGASA used an SGI Irix supercomputer...."

So they were probably using an O2k. Somebody wake me when there is some real news.....

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749594)

Exactly, this isn't news. The "supercomputer" in question was a decade old.

A modern cluster of high-end Intel CPUs beats a 10 year old computer? Shocking!

Re:One thing always missing from such stories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750144)

Umm, this runs Linux... SLES to be specific:

http://www.top500.org/system/ranking/8966 [top500.org]

This isn't anything new... (5, Interesting)

toby34a (944439) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748646)

Most weather prediction centers have adapted their weather forecast models to use Linux clusters. By running an operational forecast model on a cluster, it's easy for forecasters to scale the models so that they can be run (albeit slowly) on desktop machines, and are easily worked on by real meteorologists (versus IT professionals). At my university, we use a large cluster of machines on a RedHat enterprise system, and then able to scale the models and run them on multiple processors using MPICH compilers and batch jobs. Really, using a Debian cluster is no different then using a RedHat cluster. My colleague has access to the NOAA machine, which has more processors then you can shake a stick at... he talks about some code that takes 3 days to run on his personal workstation that takes 2 minutes on 40 processors. With the relatively low cost of a linux cluster, weather forecasting models can be run quickly and efficiently on numerous processors at a local level. With the ease of use of a Linux machine versus some of the supercomputers, it puts the power in the meteorologists to make those changes to the model so that it can improve forecasts.

Re:This isn't anything new... Global Telecom. Sys. (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749432)

The article mentions the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) It would be cool to know
how they get their GTS data, probably use a satellite downlink. There is a GPL GTS switch that's developed for Debian:

http://metpx.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

 

Obligatory (2, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748694)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of ...

oh, wait...

Re:Obligatory (1)

Mogster (459037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748818)

So that would be Beowulf squared?

Where is... (4, Funny)

darekana (205478) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748706)

I tried:
apt-get -f -y install gweather
But it failed with something about "ldconfig: /lib/libearthquake-2.3.so.0 is not a symbolic link"

Is libearthquake in unstable?

Re:Where is... (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748782)

You've got it all wrong; you should be using built-in tools like these:

more weather - For when you need a new update.

less weather - Got too much weather? Reduce it!

vi weather - When you want to change the weather.

emacs weather - When you want to change the weather on 15 separate planets at once.

cat weather - It's raining... oh, never mind.

Re:Where is... (2, Funny)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749440)

Microsoft Weather - seems to be a very fine weather, but all of a sudden it may turn into a hailstorm.

Re:Where is... (2, Funny)

sincewhen (640526) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749468)

Hailstorm? or Blue Sky Of Death?

Re:Where is... (1)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749772)

less weather - Got too much weather? Reduce it!

Only problem is that less is more:-/

Re:Where is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749838)

man weather - It's raining men. Hallelujah!

Re:Where is... (3, Funny)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748828)

Did you enable the "Universe" repository?

Re:Where is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749316)

mixing debian with ubuntu repositories is a very bad idea. also universe mostly contains what's in debian main anyways.

Re:Where is... (1)

knight24k (1115643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750114)

Need more coffee, I read that as universe suppository and that gave black holes a whole new meaning....

How they did it: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22748830)

A cron job that echoes "Hot and humid" once a day.

ctrl+f beowulf cluster, F3, F3, F3, (1)

HNS-I (1119771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748912)

What, only one?

Virtual Machines (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22748970)

Debian is pretty great, but notived that you need a pretty big virtual machine
allocation if you are to use it within vmware as the log files clog up the system pretty quickly.
there is a setting somewhere but by default is expects a normal hard drive and not for example a 1gb allocation.

Re:Virtual Machines (1)

dasmoo (1052358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749070)

/etc/logrotate.conf Your problem isn't Debian, as 7 days rotation is just fine in most cases. I'm pretty sure you'd use up more space with the default packages in other systems anyway.

Scalable ? (1)

Guybrush_T (980074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749010)

"an eight-PC Debian cluster"

"[we] wanted to implement a system which is very scalable"

8 PCS ? 64 cores at most. And they call that scalable ? Come on, today's top500 top machines scale on 10'000 cores. They're 15 years late.

Re:Scalable ? (2, Informative)

onebuttonmouse (733011) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749034)

Perhaps they mean it is scalable in the sense that one could simply add more machines to the cluster, rather than adding more cores to the machines already in place.

Re:Scalable ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749356)

Yeah...that's what scalable means...

They're not paying Intel either (2, Interesting)

terremoto (679350) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749038)

From TFA
What was even surprising to us is that Intel FORTRAN is also free of charge ...
I bet Intel are surprised too. Their compilers are not that free of charge. The people at the Philippine government's official weather service are hardly "not getting compensated in any form" http://www.intel.com/cd/software/products/asmo-na/eng/219771.htm [intel.com]

How do they actually supercompute? (1)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749042)

The article lack, as usual, information about what those machines actually do when they compute together.

What I want to know is: Do they have a big 64 bit addressable RAM image spread over all nodes, communicating with pthreads, like I prefer? Or perhaps they have several 32bit RAM images communicating with some special message protocol. Or perhaps they just have lots of quite independent but equal programs running, as an ensemble. Or perhaps some kind of pipeline where the different parts of the calculation run on different machines.

All those free and commercial producers of supercomputers, why don't they tell us clearly how they are supposed to be used? Personally, I prefer one big image, because I am a physicist kind of person, knowing that this simple computational model will save me lots of work, and also work fast in practice, as long as I do not write too stupid code, i.e. with tight nonlocal interdependencies. But from what I see, many of them appear to use 32bit operating systems, which makes this impossible, and they thus have to use message passing protocols, which make everything much more complicated. For instance: I can do a big 3D wave simulation by having a big 3D array spanning several machines, and updating it piecemal. However, if I have to cut it into 64 sub-cubes, and using message protocols to glue their edges together, then the work required to do this is a significant road block, and extra code like that also introduces bugs.

Could this be solved by something as simple as using an NFS file, memory mapped piecemal to different machines to do automatic cross-machine data sharing?

Kim0

Re:How do they actually supercompute? (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749310)

I don't know if it's a single system image, but it could be: http://www.openssi.org/ [openssi.org]

As a weather geek as well as a GNU/Linux geek... (1)

baronvonchickenpants (696100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749278)

This makes me very happy.

Debian rocks (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749568)

what else is new?

FYI, I am a little biased, but Debian is the distro that constantly gives me the least trouble.

weatherNIX? (1)

greyblack (1148533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749612)

There must be a thousand distros out there, so why not?

RE: Debian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749804)

I know debian is a solid distro that still cares a lot about its philosophy and execution, but aren't we getting a little loose with the "insightful" business? As mods become disconnected from validity, Slashdot continues its slide toward becoming an online ITWeek cum National Inquirer.

I do, however, remember the old days when slashdot was both irreverent AND relevent, alas.
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