What Software Should Be on What Machines?

jimc, 2001-08-09

Mathnet/PICnet consists of a lot of machines controlled by various sets of users, who have a variety of needs. The major user sets are:

From the administrative point of view, we would like to have the machines be as uniform as possible. Each user constituency would like to have the software they need to do their work. We need to balance those needs.

Machine Categories

The machines are differentiated by purpose, and by architecture. Presently we have four incompatible architectures: Sparc (Solaris 5.5 and 5.6), i386-Solaris, i386-Linux (SuSE and Red Hat), and i386-WinNT. For the most part this discussion is about UNIX, but to some extent it applies to Windows also.

By purpose, there are desktop workstations, home directory servers, compute servers, and system servers (e.g. Fern, Arachne). The distinction between these roles is vague for these reasons:

The conclusion is that a basic suite of software should be provided on every machine, regardless of architecture or purpose, which will support basic desktop-type work, and which will support compute server types of activity. The key point, though, is what should this basic software include?

Specialized Software

From the opposite direction, we have a large number of software packages which are specialized, large, expensive or used by only a small subset of the users. We have traditionally set these up on one machine and then let all the others NFS mount it. This works well. However, now that we're branching out to i386 Solaris/Linux architectures, there may be some requests for specialized packages there. Here are some principles:

We shall have to deal with several administrative issues connected with packages that are not present on all machines:

Basic Desktop Software

Now as for the basic software to be provided: Most of this is actually already on the Sparc systems, but a few items are prospective. I trust I haven't left out anything :-)