Is Platform HPC 3 Just a GUI around Linux?

Platform HPC 3 has a new skin, a brand new web interface that is modern and future looking. While we are emphasizing the usability of Platform HPC with this new product release, some people think Platform HPC is just a GUI around Linux. They couldn’t be more mistaken.

GNOME and KDE are graphical desktop interfaces for Linux, which are included in most Linux distributions. They make Linux easier to use. However, making Linux easier to use does not turn a bunch of servers into a cluster. A cluster that acts as a single system for users and administrators requires more capabilities from management software.

First, it requires a cluster management system. This allows administrators to easily manage a large number of nodes within a cluster without perming tasks node by node. Management tasks include installing the OS and software, patching the OS and upgrading applications, etc. on nodes. Cluster monitoring is also an important component of the cluster management. Without cluster monitoring capabilities, administrators would have to login to individual nodes to get cluster health and performance information, which is impractical for a cluster with more than 10 nodes. Using consolidated alerts can release administrators from having to closely watch the cluster all day long. Cluster management is the foundation that allows all nodes within a cluster to act like a single system from an administration perspective.

Second, a cluster requires workload management. This helps make a cluster into a single system for multiple users. Without workload management, a cluster is many discrete servers from user’s perspective. Instead, workload management helps run each user’s application instance as a “job”. It schedules jobs according user specified requirements and available resources. Workload management software automates fault tolerance and load balancing. It also turns multiple discrete commodity servers into a single reliable system.

Finally, a reporting system is essential for management so administrators can understand how cluster capabilities have been used and whether or not additional capabilities are required. It also shows how well users are being served using performance indicators like average job wait time, job run time, etc. This is to ensure a good return on investment for the valuable computer cluster.

There exist open source software solutions for cluster management, workload management, and reporting on the market today. However, nothing replaces a solution that integrates them together with an easy-to-use web interface while the command line interface is still there. This dramatically reduces system set-up time and the learning curve for users. It also helps users focus on their work rather dealing with complex cluster issues. For power users, the flexible command lines are still there for customization and extension. This is what Platform HPC 3 delivers. It is far more than just a nice GUI around Linux.


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