Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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It works in the lab — now what?

June 9th, 2008 · No Comments

Digipede CTO Robert Anderson is blogging about a recent experiment we’ve conducted in our lab, assessing what it would take to get the Digipede Agent running on Mono. (For those of you who don’t know, Mono is a cross-platform implementation of .NET, developed as an open-source project led by Miguel de Icaza, and sponsored by Novell.)

And as he reports, thanks to improvements in both Mono and the Digipede Network, the answer is — not much. We’ve got a working prototype of a Digipede Agent running under Mono on Linux that runs a Digipede job.

Digipede on Linux? Has the world turned upside down?


Since the beginning, Digipede has been focussed on adding value to the Microsoft platform. And customers know that. Customers also understand that Microsoft is getting better and better at making sure its products interoperate with others, even on other platforms, and Microsoft’s partners have to facilitate that. We get questions from customers pretty frequently about Mono, and lately those questions have gotten more specific, so it seems prudent to investigate any technical blockers from time to time.

So let me re-state what Robert said, and what I said above — this is an initial assessment, a technical experiment only, not a shipping product.  Rob’s post (and mine) are not a product announcement — this is a blatant “trial balloon.”  We want to hear what the market thinks of Digipede on Mono.

Why might this be interesting? Let’s back up a step and take a look at enterprise grid and HPC deployments.

Most enterprise customers have what is often called a “mixed” IT environment. That’s a euphemism for an unplanned and chaotic assortment of technologies that have piled up over the years into some type of barely-managed infrastructure. In almost every enterprise, Windows runs on most or all of the desktops. In almost every enterprise, there is some mixture of Windows and Linux servers, with maybe some Solaris and/or other UNIX flavor(s) thrown in. In almost every enterprise with an HPC infrastructure, most or all HPC nodes run Linux.

This is just reality — Windows is miles ahead in 2008 desktop market share, and Linux is miles ahead in 2008 HPC market share. Do I wish it were different? Sure — if Microsoft had a bigger share of the HPC market (and we’ve been working diligently to help make that happen), we’d have an even bigger market into which we could sell our software. And that will happen, I have no doubt. We tell all our customers “Windows HPC Server is the best option for adding power to a Digipede grid,” and that’s the truth. Go buy some now.

But the fact remains, there’s a lot of existing infrastructure — desktops, 32-bit Windows servers, Linux servers and cluster nodes, Solaris servers, and more — that enterprises are not going to throw away.  All this infrastructure represents potential grid computing power.  The Digipede Network has always run on heterogeneous Windows networks — with Agents running on 32- and 64-bit Windows desktops, 32- and 64-bit Windows servers, and cluster nodes running Windows HPC Server (formerly Compute Cluster Server). Our reluctance to include boxes that don’t run Windows has always been mostly about applications — it’s still relatively rare to find applications that are actually deployed across multiple operating systems simultaneously.

But as Mono gets better and better, we hear from enterprise customers and prospects who are getting more interested in it. They like the idea of being able to use more of their existing infrastructure more efficiently. They want to take advantage of Digipede’s great developer experience to deploy more applications — with minimal changes to that infrastructure.

So let’s get back to Robert’s closing question: “Now that we can do it, what should we do with it?” What do you think? Is the market crying out for a multi-OS .NET grid? Or is what we’re hearing just idle curiosity?  Let’s hear from all sides.

Tags: Compute Cluster Server · Grid applications · Partnering with Microsoft · Usability

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