I had a chance to catch up with the new management team over at Clustercorp today and hear what’s new with Rocks+ since their recent $3M Series A round of funding. Rocks+ is a commercially licensed and supported version of the popular Rocks open source cluster provisioning tool. Available as part of the HP Unified Cluster Portfolio, Rocks+ goes far beyond the capabilities of traditional cluster provisioning utilities by incorporating templates, or “rolls” in the Rocks parlance, for 100’s if not 1000’s of software packages.
I first ran across Rocks back in 2003 when I worked with SDSC and the Rocks team to build a 128 node supercomputer on the SC03 show floor in less than 2 hours. Thanks to my good friend Rich now over at InsideHPC, you can still view a time lapse video of the cluster build on YouTube. Rocks has definitely come a long way in the last 8 years.
Lets say you are a biomedical researcher interested in APBS (Adaptive Poisson-Boltzmann Solver), a scalable Poisson-Boltzmann equation solver used to study electrostatic properties of small to nanoscale biomolecular systems. How do you download and install APBS, as well as many potential prerequisites (libraries, tools, other packages, that may be needed to run APBS). It could take you days or weeks, or you could simply go to the Rocks web site and download the “Rocks Roll” for APBS recently released by the National Biomedical Computation Resource (NCBR) at University of California, San Diego. Even if you have never heard of NCBR, it sounds like they might know a thing or two about running APBS.
If you are tired or spending days getting your basic cluster software installed, not to mention the weeks you might spend getting all the additional software you need, I’d encourage you to try out Rocks. Better yet, next time you purchase a cluster from HP, just ask for Rocks+ to be included so you can enjoy all the benefits of a commercially supported version of the Rocks software and benefit from 100’s of Rocks Rolls developed by NCBR and many other commercial, academic, and research software developers.