The difference between an architecture and a product [part 2]

More reflections on the differences between architectures and products. Beowulf and most cluster systems are architectures to be built. Many vendors attempt to freeze the architecture, or restrict variations of it in order to build a polished product.

Polished products are finished. They have a finished feel to them. Someone went through and actually made stuff work, identified broken stuff, and had someone fix them. Well, not all clusters are like this, some feel like stacked boxes that the cluster vendor could get at a low price, as the cluster vendor knows how to spell HPC, but not do it.

We have run into lots of neat architectures which masquerade as products. You can usually see them with semi-slick java-based interfaces. They focus more upon form than usability and function. They don’t think through details. The details are where the devil lives.

Architectures are hard to support. Stuff breaks. Some things that are well designed may be poorly implemented. Which means when it breaks it is hard to fix. Hard to fix is expensive. And sobering.

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