HPC Pack Beta1 was recently announced at the Super-Computing convention in Reno (i.e. "SC'07").  Executing on release milestones with hard dates, as with the convention date, is always a project management night-mare.   The task illustrates the classic struggle between time, resources, and features.   Generally, features are sacrificed and resources are increased (i.e. the product team works overtime).  

Such is the case with HPC Server 2008 beta1.   Yes, there are missing features and certain features that present a nice "Easter Egg" surprise for those willing to give the product a spin.   Otherwise, the beta generally accomplishes what beta's are supposed to accomplish.  That is, the user community is given a good idea of where the product is headed along with an opportunity to provide feedback that will ultimately positively influence the product. 

With this perspective, it seems appropriate to keep a running-list of observations that might help you get past some of the features that were first scattered amongst the resources and subsequently gathered into beta1...

 

Deployment

  • Where is the "Add Node" button?
  • When deploying compute nodes via PXE boot, the node will receive the DHCP assignment and a small command script download to the node.  Then, the node will appear to pause.  This is your queue to return to the Admin console, right-click the node within Node Configuration view, and move the node from "Unknown" state to "Assign Template". 
  • The node imaging process progresses through OS installation while the node state remains in "Provisioning".  This may be a consequence of the node's "Private/Admin" network firewall setting remaining "on" even though you specified it to be "off" during your previous walk thru the cluster configuration "TODO" list.  You will need to turn the firewall off manually on the new compute node.

Operations

  • Be certain to read the release notes included with the HPC Pack installation.   This is where the product team has confessed to the features they sacrificed in order to achieve the beta1 release date.   The list should be longer, but that's OK.  I suspect that the list was compiled at midnight on Friday, November 9th, and just before the Release Manager pulled his sleeping bag from underneath his desk (thereafter dreaming of a brief break while watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV).

Development

  • The pesky firewall setting described above under "deployment" observations will bite you when you first run your legacy MPI test application.   It will also make your experience with the new SOA features a great learning experience.

 

I'll revise this list over time so please check back occasionally.  In the meantime, please download the beta bits at http://connect.microsoft.com and provide feedback to Microsoft.  There are various ways to provide feedback.  Key "learnings" that will help others use the product may be shared at our community site (http://WindowsHPC.net) in both forums and blog responses.   The older community site at http://archives.WindowsHPC.net is still active and useful.  Key constructive criticisms, recommendations, and bug reports should be sent directly to the beta program coordinator using the "Feedback" tool on the Connect web-site.