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Re: Alpha Core Directions
From: Lamar Owen (lowenpari.edu)
Date: Tue Dec 21 2004 - 13:16:03 CST
On Tuesday 21 December 2004 07:21, Mike Barnes wrote:
> First up - am I correct in thinking that most users/potential users
> would be using this on "hobby" machines?
I am probably an exception. PARI, being a nonprofit entity, takes all manners
of donated computer gear. We have about 25 Ultra30 SPARC's, a half dozen SGI
Indigo2's, and one AlphaServer 2100. I managed to obtain four 4/275 CPU
cards for this beast (for 52 pounds sterling from a guy in the UK, no less),
and it has 1GB of RAM and two fully loaded StorageWorks shelves.
The box boots, runs, and even installs Debian. I have an operational Woody
installation: single processor only. I have four CPU's; I expect to be able
to use them. :-) I tried gentoo, and that's just a pain in the neck. The
final reboot (after rebuilding source for days!) produced massive scrolling
machine checks (but it did compile the kernel with -mcpu=ev5 instead of ev45,
which is what the 4/275 is); the Debian install went far smoother, far
faster, and at least reboots ok, but still no working SMP. I haven't rebuilt
the kernel yet; the old beast takes two and a half hours to do that (I know
that from the gentoo experiment).
Would I like a Fedora Core for it? Well, if I can't have a RHEL for it, sure
I'd love a Fedora for it. Much like I love having Tangerine for my U30's
(been running Aurora on U30's for a while, and in fact my production mail and
dns servers are U30's running some flavor of Aurora).
But this isn't hobby; this is work. In my case I would have users running
large mathematical jobs, running either IRAF, AIPS++, or custom-compiled
Fortran code to do data reduction for optical and radio astronomy. Alphas
are supposed to be good at floating point; well, with a donated computer
situation you make do with what you have, and the AS2100 is what I have,
short of a 24 node Ultra30 Beowulf (if the software would just build on
SPARC!). The SMP alphabeast with 1GB of RAM fits the bill nicely for large
math jobs, even if they have to be batch.
IRAF having Debian packages is a BIG plus for me using Debian; if I could just
get working SMP....
> If so, is a focus more on
> "desktop" than "server" functionality appropriate? I'm not talking
> about dropping Apache or Samba or anything - but some of the more
> esoteric stuff could go. Anyone's thoughts on this would be great.
I'm certainly not going to run a desktop on our AS2100; while running GUI
stuff through an ssh tunnel (like IRAF and AIPS++ will be) is an option, this
beast is definitely a server. The pseudo-EISA TGA is just too weak for
heavy duty workstation use; that's why I'd probably marry the AS2100 server
to the Indigo2 desktops (the I2's running IRIX, of course, since they are
IMPACT equipped boxes). Or the two U10's that I have equipped with Elite3D's
and Solaris of some flavor.
Running a postgresql server on the beast is also an option; but then again,
I'm somewhat biased towards PostgreSQL (google me and you'll see why).
I've even considered the academic OpenVMS route for the alpha. I have a
hobbyist installation of OpenVMS/VAX running on SIMH on a Pentium 3 for
running some really really old Fortran code I have for radio playing, so VMS
isn't too alien for me.
> The other side of this issue is what else would be good to include?
> Pretty much anything that's in the Fedora Extras repository would be
> pretty easy, provided there are no major issues beyond doing a rebuild
> from source.
I obviously want octave and scilab, but I digress.... :-) Working EISA DAC960
drivers is obviously something else I'd be interested in, unless someone
wants to make a charitable donation of some Wide SBB's and a PCI DAC960. :-D
Oh, and integration capabilities so that I can plug in the HP/Compaq Alpha
tools, since the DEC/Compaq Fortran is a much better choice than g77.
Oh, and ATM support so I can connect to my multiple-meshed OC-12 backbone here
(yes, I run the beast known as ATM as a LAN. Love it. Love the price of
used 3Com Corebuilder 7000 gear even more. Love the fiber optic mesh we
inherited up here even more.). A guy can dream, no?
Director of Information Technology
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
1 PARI Drive
Rosman, NC 28772
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