Volume 21, Number 2 - February 2005
|Conversation With An ISP
Chris Boyd of Midas Networks
Thursday, February 17, 7:00 PM
The CACTUS Newsletter is a monthly publication, distributed to our members and other interested people. Visit the CACTUS Newsletter on the web at http://www.cactus.org/Newsletter/. There you will find archives of back issues, as well as instructions on how to subscribe to the e-mail distribution. We welcome newsletter submissions by our members. Please contact newsletter [at] cactus <dot> org for more information.
Midas Networks is a Cedar Park-based web hosting, colocation, and managed services company. They host several sites including LESSnetworks.com (who spearheaded the free WiFi™ services around Austin). Chris Boyd of Midas Networks will be holding an open discussion with CACTUS members about various issues affecting Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Midas Networks' web site is at http://www.midasnetworks.com/.
The next CACTUS meeting will be held on Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM for pizza and informal discussion), in the auditorium of UT Applied Research Laboratories. (See end of newsletter for directions to the facility).
President Lindsay Haisley wrote the list of officers to be elected on the black board before convening the meeting. He omitted Newsletter editor. Saying that James Johnson was present in spirit, he opened the meeting reminding us that whoever was absent was sure to elected to some post. Responding to the threat, Luis Baston arrived late.
Treasurer Johnny Long reported that we had more money than we had before. Membership chair Luis Basto said that we had about the same number of members and no new sponsors. He also brought US mail addressed to Bob Gustwick, President of CACTUS. Bob one of the principals of realtime.net and bga.com, which many years ago provided a home for our old Sun hosting cactus.org. Bob was never a member of CACTUS, however.
Lindsay moved quickly to the election of officers. Ron Roberts nominated Randy Zagar for president, citing the excellent job Randy had done as program chair. With no other nominees, Randy was elected by acclamation and took over the chair.
When someone pointed out that the Newsletter editor wasn't listed on the blackboard, Gil Kloepfer immediately volunteered for this thankless task. The vote was pro forma.
When no one volunteered for Treasurer, Randy asked Johnny Long if he would continue in that role. Johnny said that he would if he could get someone else to bring the soda, ice, and cups. The membership decided to delegate that task to a member at large. Lindsay pointed out that the primary reponsiblity of the President was to order the pizza. So Johnny agreed to be the treasurer for yet another year.
Ron Roberts was volunteered to continue as scribe. Luis Basto agreed to server as membership chair, explaining that he was getting good at harassing people for money.
We could induce no volunteer for program chair. After stating that programs were a shared responsibility of the entire membership, and that the chair only had to co-ordinate the programs, John Christy reluctantly volunteered. Lindsay Haisley volunteered for publicity chair, whose main responsibility is to keep the Web page up-to-date.
Member at large number one was designated to be responsible for providing soda, ice and cups so that Treasurer Johnny Long wouldn't have to continue that function. Mark Scarborough volunteered. Longtime member Don Kassebaum volunteered to server as member at large number two.
After new officers were selected, outgoing president Lindsay Halsey made a formal presentation to Randy Zagar. During the last year, we had been collecting donations for pizza and soda in a "kitty". Lindsay exhibited a green frog with an open mouth for collecting money. On the left eye of the frog was a caret (^). On the right eye of the frog was a dollar sign ($)--signifying the begining and end of a regular expression.
Randy Zagar announced that the tenative program for February will by by Midas Networks about SPAM. Someone mentioned that the Newisys machine hasn't crashed since it came up. Lindsay reminded Randy that we need to schedule a board of directors meeting. The scribe needs to provide the treasurer and president with letters with the CACTUS letterhead affirming their election. Someone asked again if our DBA needs updating. Ray Solanik motioned that CACTUS pay for the board of directors meal. The membership passed this motion unanomously.
The program for the evening was presented by David Carver of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas Advanced Research Lab (UT/ARL). He apologized for using a windows laptop, explaining that it wasn't his, but he needed PowerPoint to present his slides. David brought some of the staff with him: Brady Adams, Laura Timm, and David Anderson.
The TACC web site is at: http://www.tacc.utexas.edu/. They use ROCKS from the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastruction (NPACI): http://rocks.npaci.edu/Rocks.
David emphasized that their cluster was not stuff from the dump clustered with Beowulf, but fairly new equipment costing about $2,000 per node. With 512 nodes and 1024 processors, the primary cause of failure is heat. Heat causes memory failures, which is why they now use ECC memory. There's no redundancy in the hardware, nor hotswap.
They add air conditioning in increments of 20 tons, although the next increase will be 40 tons. They use LCRA power, not the City of Austin (Austin Energy). They don't have uninterruptable power supplies either.
Unfortunately, the user applications are not fault tolerant. Checkpoint's technology has been lost David explained. When SGI bought Cray computers, they kept the patent for the interconnect technology and sold the rest of the company. ROCKS run Linux, a version of Red Hat Enterprise 3.0.
He explained that clustering sixteen nodes is easy, but when you get to 64, you begin to see the limits of NFS server daemons. If becomes difficult to communicate with all of the nodes in a timely manner. Conseguently, they don't use NFS.
ROCKS originated at the University of San Diego with the goal of making clustering easy for scientests. They wanted to leverage open sources so they compile from Red Hat RHEL sources. Red Hat has issued 225 source RPM updates since October 21st. ROCKS doesn't attempt to do incremental updates.
Installation is automatic. You download an ISO image and burn a CDROM. Boot the CDROM on the frontend computer and answer a few questions. It copies the cluser software to the hard drive. Reboot the frontend, login, and then insert the ethers files for the cluster clients. Then you boot the cluster clients from CDROM and you're ready to go.
The clients use DHCP to discover who they are. ROCKS supports x86 Pentium and Athlon, AMD Opteron 64, EM64T (64 bit pentium 4) and Itanium processors. The interconnects comprise about one half of the total cost. They use ethernet and myrinet. Infiniband interconnects are in development.
The frontend master uses the PBS scripting language, which looks a lot like JCL. Essentially, the application just tells the master how many nodes it needs, and the front end handles the rest. NFS is only used for home directories. For the real work, they use Parallel Virtual File System (PVFS) version 1.
Thanks to David, his staff, and the Texas Advanced Computing Center for the in depth presentation.
First, I'd like to thank Lindsay Haisley for his work as the President of CACTUS for the past two years. I'd also like to thank the membership for electing me to be the CACTUS President for 2005. I think Lindsay's done a great job, and I'll do my best to fill his shoes.
I was looking over the newsletters over the past couple years and it looks like Lindsay's words from last year are still true... It's definitely an interesting time to be involved in information technology, and CACTUS is still smack-dab in the middle of it all.
Many of the issues we've seen over the past two years are still relevant today. Despite a few good court cases, DMCA abuse is still with us. The movie and music industries are lobbying hard to make peer-to-peer networking illegal. And I think we're all painfully aware of the fact that the CAN-SPAM Act hasn't really affected anyone's INBOX.
We're seeing new issues as well. Voice over IP is growing by leaps and bounds, and it's not only forcing phone companies to re-think their networks but it's also forcing the FCC to review how it regulates telecommunications.
CACTUS has changed too, but not where it counts. We're here to educate and promote the Unix philosophy, and as long as we're making progress on that front I think we'll do just fine.
Our mailing lists are gradually picking up steam. The jobs list has had a number of posts of late, and people looking for positions have inquired of me personally about getting on the list. Our jobs list has 22 subscribers. The unix-technical list has 17 subscribers, and I'm beginning to get Q & A traffic on it. Our Unix-advocacy list has only 12 subscribers.
I'd like to see our unix-technical list take off and fly. If you're currently subscribed to one or more technical Q & A lists elsewhere, consider recommending it to your other lists. If you're knowledgeable about Unix and Unix-like operating systems, consider subscribing to CACTUS's unix-technical list and helping answer questions. Or, if you have a technical question, subscribe and post it to the list.
Our newsletter list, cactus-news, has 147 subscribers, several times the number of dues-paying CACTUS members. This is as it should be, actually, since our newsletter is and has always been open for anyone to receive - the more the merrier.
You can subscribe to any of the CACTUS lists by following the "Mailing Lists" link on the main CACTUS website.
We would like to thank William Hill for renewing his membership.
To renew your membership, please send check or money order payable to CACTUS ($30/yr for regular membership and $100/yr for corporate sponsorship):
PO BOX 9786
Austin, TX 78766-9786
You can also pay in person at the general meetings. Please direct any inquiries or address changes to membership [at] cactus <dot> org.
CACTUS meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Applied Research Laboratories (ARL) in the JJ Pickle Research Campus (JJ PRC). We'll meet in the main auditorium located directly behind the guard's desk and main lobby.
Please do not show up earlier than 6:20 PM on the specified day. Enter through the main entrance at 10000 Burnet Road for ARL. Tell the guard that you are here for the CACTUS meeting. You will be required to sign a log book, but not required to wear a badge. The guards will direct you to the auditorium entrance. Limited parking in the front of the building is available, but more extensive parking is available in the large parking lot just north of the ARL building. After 6:30 pm, all entrances to JJ PRC, except for the Burnet Road entrance, are closed and locked. You can still enter the parking lot in front of the ARL building. No parking tags are necessary after 6:00 PM (but you will need to inform the guard in the booth that you are attending a meeting at ARL). See map for further details.
Online maps are available at:
As always, please leave the facility as you saw it when you arrived.