HPC Pitfalls: The Costs of Free Software

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Douglas Eadline is continuing his series of posts on HPC Pitfalls this week by taking on the notion that Free Software has no Cost:

One of the biggest issues facing cluster administrators is upgrading software. Commonly, cluster users simply load a standard Linux release on each node and add some message-passing middleware (i.e., MPI) and a batch scheduler. This arrangement offers a quick victory for the administrator, but could cause serious upgrade issues and downtime in the future. For instance, upgrading to a new distribution of Linux might require rebuilding MPI libraries and other middleware. User applications might also need to be rebuilt with a third-party optimizing compiler that does not yet support the new distribution upgrade. Administrators and users are then required to find workarounds or fixes that allow users to run the new software. Other packages can suffer a similar fate, resulting in frustration and lost productivity. In summary, free software does not imply free support or easy integration. The open nature of Linux-based software does allow optimal flexibility and choice within a local user environment, but it can also places extra responsibility on the administrator or user.

Read the Full Story over at Linux Admin.