Rocks Cluster Distribution (originally called NPACI Rocks) is a Linux distribution intended for high-performance computing clusters. It was started by National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure and the SDSC in 2000 and was initially funded in part by an NSF grant (2000-2007) but is currently funded by the followup NSF grant. Rocks was initially based on the Red Hat Linux distribution, however modern versions of Rocks are now based on CentOS, with a modified Anaconda installer that simplifies mass installation onto many computers. Rocks includes many tools (such as MPI) which are not part of CentOS but are integral components that make a group of computers into a cluster.
Installations can be customized with additional software packages at install-time by using special user-supplied CDs (called "Roll CDs"). The "Rolls" extend the system by integrating seamlessly and automatically into the management and packaging mechanisms used by base software, greatly simplifying installation and configuration of large numbers of computers. Over a dozen Rolls have been created, including the SGE roll, the Condor roll, the Lustre roll, the Java roll, and the Ganglia roll.
Since its initial release, Rocks has become a widely-used cluster operating system, for academic, government, and commercial organizations, employed in 1,376 clusters worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. The largest registered academic cluster, having 8632 CPUs, is GridKa, operated by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. There are also a number of clusters ranging down to less than 10 CPUs, representing the early stages in the construction of larger systems, as well as being used for courses in cluster design. This easy scalability was a major goal in the development of Rocks, both for the researchers involved, and for the NSF:
- "Broader impact mirrors intellectual merit, and specifically lies in Rocks' new capabilities enabling management of very large clusters such as those emerging from the NSF Track 2 program, the ease of configuration of clusters supporting virtualization capabilities and generally the continuing effect of Rocks on installation and use of Linux clusters across NSF communities."
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