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Hardware Today: Using Your POWER for Good Page 2

By Ben Freeman (Send Email)
Posted May 24, 2004


UW Builds a POWERful Catalog

While Alpine uses POWER systems to boost the volume on its business applications, the University of Washington (UW) directs them to more visual use: the development of a comprehensive catalog of films, videos, and other media. After securing funding from the Library of Congress, the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), and National Science Foundation, UW (along with Rutgers and Georgia Tech), have used entry-level 2-way, POWER4+ pSeries 610 and pSeries 630 systems running SUSE Linux to build their Moving Image Collections (MIC) Portal Project. UW produces the directory server for the catalog with two 2-way pSeries 610s, while Rutgers and Georgia Tech direct the union catalog and portal sites with pSeries 630s.

According to Jim DeRoest, assistant director of computing and communications for UW, the project derived from a need of AMIA's: "They were looking for a way to create a directory and a catalog of video collections that would be accessible on the Web and provide portals for various communities, educators, producers, editors, footage people — various folks who are interested in video collections," he said. DeRoest and his Rutgers and Georgia Tech counterparts, Grace Agnew and Ed Price, respectively, set to work costuming POWER systems for the disparate tasks needed for the project. Although the project is still in development, early screenings for select user sets are under way, DeRoest said.

Extensive experience with AIX and POWER at each university was a factor in choosing pSeries systems, DeRoest said. But with a limited equipment allocation, price/performance also mattered. A decision to go with Linux boxes for open standards and low-cost meant considering inexpensive Intel boxes, an idea the group eventually nixed. "One problem that we've had here at the UW with Intel Linux boxes is, even when we buy them from the same vendor — you know, Dell, HP, whoever it happens to be — we buy a particular model, deploy Linux, and deploy drivers," DeRoest said, "then four to six months later, we go back and order the same model. Well, unbeknownst to us they've changed the video chipset, changed drivers, and suddenly the installation we were using doesn't work anymore, and we have to go out and find drivers."

With POWER and the pSeries, on the other hand, DeRoest found that "as long as you stay with a particular model number, it stays consistent." In fact, the simplicity found in an eleventh-hour Linux build pushed a POWER implementation below budget and made the portability a reality.

As far as IBM support, there "certainly haven't been any showstoppers along the way," DeRoest said. He does, however, take issue with Big Blue's Linux support model. When problems arise, "we've had to work with SUSE and we've had to work with IBM, and [we] go back and forth," he said. More direct support in this vein would help, he added. As IBM hones its Linux resources to match its AIX experience, this problem may fade, especially if it puts the promised muscle behind Linux on POWER.

These studies show POWER in action, and should make compelling cases for some enterprises to try POWER for themselves. These case studies show POWER's unique value: build consistency, robust partitioning, and an increasingly viable platform for Linux. As the 32-bit/64-bit market takes shape, POWER may set the spotlight on its products, particularly compared to Opteron and Itanium-2.

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