October 22, 2011 11:48 AM
Rolls are software packages that can be included in the configuration of Rocks. The leader of the Rocks development team Mason Katz comments that, "Rolls are significant because they allow the definition of reproducible customizations to further enhance specific working configurations" (Grid Today). Rolls are not necessary for Rocks to function; rather, rolls extend the Rocks by integrating themselves into the management and packaging mechanisms used by software on the system. This is all done behind the scenes. The user does not necessarily need to know the complexity behind how the rolls interact with software and the system; in fact, the rolls integrate into Rocks to the point that it appears to the user as though it were a part of the distribution itself. This ability to customize the operating system with specialized software makes Rocks and rolls invaluable for cluster computing, which can have varied specialized needs.One feature about rolls included in Rocks is the ability to export custom rolls. Many researchers must write their own software for the implementation of their clusters. By allowing users to create and modify their own rolls, these configurations to the system can be easily distributed through a research group or online community. Ganglia and SGE are some examples of third-party groups that have released rolls. Ganglia allows HPC users to view usage statistics for the machine, such as network or GPU usage, and SGE is a scheduler for user-created jobs on the system. While we could install these manually, by using Rolls, much of the installation process is simplified for these complex applications.Rolls can be applied during or after the installation of Rocks. If you have access to a roll CD or a roll that has been distributed online, then it can be applied during the Rocks installation.
This picture shows a portion of the Roll installation process, which allows you to install from the Internet or from a CD. If Rocks has already been installed, rolls may be added by creating a restore roll of the current configuration of your installation, and then reinstalling Rocks. Although it is not as simple as installing a new program from the App Store, it is certainly convenient that Rocks allows for the creation of your own roll of your system.Rolls are only a part of the Rocks operating system, but they help make Rocks versatile. As Freed-Hardeman’s HPC is used, we will naturally need rolls more and more, for both the simplicity of use and for the creation of rolls.
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October 7, 2011 2:50 PM
What is Rocks? Rocks is the most foundational piece of software that is run on the Freed-Hardeman supercomputer. It is the operating system that controls and manages all of the nodes in the supercomputer, which together form what is called a cluster. The cluster consists of compute nodes and a Frontend node networked together, as shown in the physical layout of a Rocks cluster taken from the Rocks User Guide:
The Frontend node manages the cluster, while the compute nodes have all the brute computing power and do the work for the cluster.
The Rocks OS itself is based on CentOS Linux distribution with a modified Anaconda installer so that it can be easily installed en masse. The main method of accessing the Rocks OS is through a familiar Linux command line. The Frontend node handles synchronization and communication with the compute nodes transparently, so the OS, for the most part, appears to behave like a normal distribution of Linux. The OS is easily customizable through software packages called Rolls, which extend the functionality of the OS in a variety of ways. According to the Wikipedia article on Rocks, the OS is capable of managing very large clusters, with the largest academic cluster containing 8,632 logical CPUs at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. One of the best attributes of the OS is that it is free and open source, and funded by a National Science Foundation Grant. It is actively maintained and the latest version is 5.4.3.
The Rocks operating system is powerful enough to run on huge computing networks, remains easy enough to install and use to make it widely practical, and is very extensible due to its use of Roll software packages. This makes it an ideal OS for the Freed-Hardeman supercomputer cluster.
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