The OSCAR Revolution
As of this writing, OSCAR 1.2.1 is available, which runs under Red Hat Linux 7.1. MSC.Linux Version 2001 is based on OSCAR 1.1. The 1.x1 releases were quite popular in the community—they've been downloaded roughly 25,000 times from SourceForge. However, the biggest problem OSCAR is now facing is that it takes the relatively few OSCAR developers time and effort to integrate all the new software packages that want to be included in OSCAR. The OSCAR 2.0 effort is underway, with an emphasis on establishing component APIs so that anyone with an open software package can integrate their package with OSCAR. The OCG itself is growing. Since Tim Mattson went on Intel sabbatical, Jeff Squyres from the University of Indiana has taken the leadership role in the OSCAR 2.0 architecture and consistency. Ibrahim Haddad from Ericsson [and a frequent LJ contributor] has joined the consortium with interesting ideas on how to bring OSCAR to near-telecom levels of reliability. Jim Garlick, representing Lawrence Livermore National Lab also has joined the consortium bringing his real-world large cluster scaling experience and concerns to the group.
At the very first OSCAR meeting, it was agreed that OSCAR should not be tied to a particular Linux distribution or platform. However, to date the OCG's efforts have been largely focused on the Red Hat and MSC.Linux distributions and the IA-32 architecture. This focus will expand in 2002. The purpose of integrating SIS into OSCAR was to be able to support all RPM-based distributions: SuSE, Turbolinux, Red Hat, MSC.Linux and Caldera, and later to support deb-based distributions such as Debian. Additionally, the architecture of SIS makes it easy to port to new platforms. NCSA already has a beta version of OSCAR running on Itanium, and Oak Ridge has done extensive testing with Red Hat 7.2. Given the open API and ability to run on many different distributions and platforms, expect OSCAR and the OCG to expand dramatically this year.
The impacts of OSCAR on the Linux clustering community can be viewed in several different perspectives. At the most apparent, OSCAR is providing a useful clustering tool that is usable across various manufacturers' platforms. It has removed much of the ambiguity inherent in assembling software from various web sites by putting together a single, integrated, documented, tested and supported package. It is truly a clustering solution that a nonprogrammer can implement. However, beneath the surface, the OCG is a thriving consortium composed of national labs, academia and industry that are cooperating to bring new open-source solutions to Linux. Along the way, the consortium had to break new ground in ways to cooperate, with unique concepts like DIP Days. In retrospect, the consortium's most important long-term contribution to the community may be in developing new ways to work together for the betterment of open source.
Richard Ferri is a senior programmer in IBM's Linux Technology Center, where he works on open-source Linux clustering projects such as LUI and OSCAR. He now lives in a rural setting in upstate New York with his wife Pat, three teen-aged sons and three dogs of suspect lineage.
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