Dot (career update)
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).
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
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