There was a surprising (to me) amount of coverage on the Red Hat HPC announcement last week. Representative is this article over at The Register. First, the context
Enter, stage right, Microsoft with its Windows HPC Server 2008 distribution last week and a partnership with Cray to go after the baby supercomputer market, a bunch of other players like SiCortex using Gentoo Linux (not a variant of Debian), and you can see that Red Hat wants to ramp up its presence in HPC to go after what would seem like some easy money.
Which is probably correct, although HPC is anything but easy money (just ask Linux Networx about a business in which winning contracts can shut you down). The pricing comparison is educational
…The latest version of the Red Hat HPC stack costs $249 per server node in a cluster.
Considering that Platform charges $150 per node per year to support OCS when it sells the support contract itself, this is a pretty aggressive price, especially when you compare this to the $299 charge for a standard subscription to RHEL Desktop 5, which offers 12×5 business support, or the $799 fee for a standard subscription for RHEL 5.2 on a two-socket server. The Red Hat HPC Solution price is a lot lower than what Microsoft is charging per node for Windows HPC Server 2008, which costs $475 per node.
While the Hat’s HPC solution is evidently cheaper per node at street price than Windows, it’s still not cheap (see the comment on the original post at this site by a reader who was considering dumping a $50/node OS in favor of something cheaper). To be fair I hadn’t given much thought to the issue of price for the OS, and I think that my (mistaken) indifference is probably an issue for the broader market. I suspect a large segement of the low-end to middle of the HPC market is getting into this without planning for an OS purchase. They’re focused on the hardware and the apps, but not the OS. It will be interesting to see if they recognize the value of an integrated OS stack right off the bat, or if they’ll have to spend 18 months as a market trying to roll their own before they are willing to spend the cash.
The costs will be there either way, it’s just a matter of whether the expense is paid upfront.