Dot (career update)

Eirikur Hallgrimsson eh@mad.scientist.com
Tue, 1 Jan 2002 18:33:07 -0500


Atoms.  I'm in the software-frosting of atoms business at the moment.
I get to play around with Free Software, but the revenue definitely comes 
from selling iron.

I've been meaning to post a career-update to FoRK.

I'm at Microway, (www.microway.com), purveyors of fine number-crunching to 
the trade.   Microway has taken over the boards/processors/systems 
business from the former Alpha Processors, Inc (now API Networks).
http://www.microway.com/pr/microway-api.html 
The volume business is Intel/AMD dual processor rackmount compute engines, 
but a surprizing number of customers (200 box order from a state U the 
other day) go for standard PC tower cases.   My guess was that they think 
they can re-use systems in tower cases more easily, but even the 1U boxes 
come with motherboard video.

Microway actually makes Alpha mother and daughterboards.   A 35-person 
company with surface-mount and reflow machines, etc.   It's a cute little 
company, and doing really well.   It's privately-held and mom and pop 
still manage it personally.

They hired me in as a consultant because I knew Alpha processors and 
Beowulf clustering from my gig doing an interactive demo of cluster 
scaling for Compaq.  I traveled to a can't-name national lab to install 
the first big cluster with Microway-made motherboards.

Most orders are custom in some way.   Particularly the software.  I'm 
currently working on putting together available cluster management and 
monitoring tools to add to our standard Linux installs.   "The market" for 
clustered systems seems to be moving toward integrated systems with 
management software and a GUI.   Makes sense.  I'm looking at what I can 
put together from Free and Open Source bases to provide an offering that 
is less spartan than just cloned Linux installs with the MPI/PVM parallel 
programming libraries.   Input very welcome.   I'm thinking that we 
shouldn't be doing a VA-Linux complex custom software solution.   After 
all, VA tanked and we are going strong with the present minimalist 
approach.   What I *think* we should do is to ship one of the free 
cluster-on-a-CDROM configurations
http://rocks.npaci.edu/
www.openclustergroup.org/
with a little custom configuration and some of Microway's traditional 
scripts, but I don't know of one that is complete enough.  I may be better 
off mixing and matching from the available components.  Microway doesn't 
need the killer feature (automatic remote installation of the OS on 
clients) of these packages, because we'd probably just clone disks as we 
do today.  I'm not allergic to doing some actual development, but, as I 
say, I don't know if it's justified.  I would like to come up with a 
pretty and functional GUI layered on top of the open tools.  Maybe that 
will be my background project.

 My strawman cluster is presently Rocks-based, but I have to add a bunch 
of stuff manually.   What the customer gets with Rocks, though, is a 
system where the sysadmin can say "reload node-93" and 93 will get a 
complete reinstallation from the master.   You update a directory on the 
server and can reinstall all the nodes pretty easily.

This is a totally different work environment for me.   I was working for a 
small company (Ajilon/SQP) for a while, but mostly they hired me out back 
to Compaq.


Eirikur