[Bioclusters] Debian cluster

Joseph Landman bioclusters@bioinformatics.org
Fri, 19 Sep 2003 16:25:28 -0400

Having written automated installation tools for IRIX (Autoinst, the
predecessor to Roboinst, used for a number of years), and looking at
things like SI and other imaging tools, I personally prefer the
non-image based solutions, as they do not introduce this new layer of
management you have to worry about (image management) and debug. 
Imaging is great for some things (laptop loads, etc).  

FAI looks like they do some things right.  It looks like they do not
have an automatic method of BOOTP mac address harvesting though.  That
could be quite painful on a reasonable sized cluster.  There are a
number of ways to handle that, including using File::Tail on the
/var/log/messages for your dhcp server.  From this, you can have a
script automatically build your dhcpd.conf file, populate your
/etc/hosts, etc.

Note:  Autoinst booted IRIX into a diskless mode, handled all the disk
partitioning and file system formatting, package installation, etc. 
Rules built in to it (much like the FAI classes) allowed for multiple
mixed hardware types with package/layout variations.  Pissed the network
people off though... it was faster to use this than to do a fresh
install via CD.  Imaging over the network was marginally faster to get
the image onto the disk, but then you had to do the post image
processing to make the machine unique, and sometimes (in those days) the
image transfer was not successful, so you had to do it again over poor
networks.  The package method returned a code as to whether or not the
package install succeeded, so that inst could handle problems.  All in
all the package method turned out to be significantly better in terms of
ease of use and reliability.

Please let us know how it goes.   

On Fri, 2003-09-19 at 00:52, Nox wrote:
> We have begun to investigate FAI and Debian for our clustering 
> solutions.
> I have always been partial to Debian, its my OS of choice,
> has been for yrs.
> So when I discovered the clustering tools, I was excited.
> (FAI, Fully Automated Install)
> Does anyone have experience with this?
> Pitfalls, things to watch for,
> success stories etc.
> from my perspective:
> Debian offers ease of use
> Updates are a snap (apt-get) --Including security
> Ability to be a very minimalist system
> Quick access to Biotech tools (bioperl as an example)
> We currently use debian as our Halted Firewall as well.
> Thanks in advance
> Nox
> GenMicro Systems
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Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Scalable Informatics LLC
email: landman@scalableinformatics.com
  web: http://scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 612 4615