Which Linux platform is best for my HPC environment?

By Laurence Horrocks-Barlow, technical director at OCF

This is a question we get asked a lot. Undoubtedly one driving force was in light of RedHat’s announcement that CentOS Linux 7 would come to end of life in June 2024. We found that overall, the HPC community had used CentOS for a long time and understandably this caused concern within groups using it for the production of HPC and research computing workloads.

However, due to OCF possessing proven legacy of supporting customers during times of industry change, we see such announcements as an exciting opportunity to consult on developments within the open-source community and work collaboratively with customers to understand priorities and utilise new advancements for their HPC needs.

When we were faced with this announcement, there were a few approaches to consider. Stay put for the time being as there was still support on offer, upgrade to Red Hat’s CentOS Stream 9, or migrate to an alternative community distribution. As we are completely vendor neutral, when customers asked about the latter option, we were on hand to suggest and implement various platforms suitable to their needs.

There were a few front runners in our minds. Rocky Linux was created by the original creator of CentOS and Alma Linux was built on the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) - both were strong and sensible alternatives. Especially as they are agnostic to OCF Steel, our HPC cluster management suite, enabling organisations to run HPC applications on their clusters, together with the tools that help to manage, maintain, and monitor the HPC environment. 

Based at the University of Strathclyde, ARCHIE-WeSt, is the regional supercomputer centre available to academia and industry in the West of Scotland. The University knew that CentOS 7 was coming to end of life, so it wanted to look at other operating systems available. We worked collaboratively with the University, and they opted for Alma Linux, as the University’s HPC manager, Richard Martin explains: “It seemed to us to be the most viable CentOS alternative available given the level of investment and support behind it.”

OCF Steel was the test bed for ARCHIE-WeSt’s new operating system Alma Linux. This enabled the supercomputer to move onto the platform across the whole cluster, in the space of three months with support from our team. OCF Steel underpins the environment, protecting the University’s investment as it can be scaled for the future.

Strathclyde can now easily add new servers if needed and support AI and big data, augmenting what it already has. Alma Linux has lived up to expectations and the University is especially impressed with the speed of security updates and rollout of new releases.

We can support our customers in any aspect of their HPC infrastructure and can work with and support all solutions, whether it’s from our partner’s RedHat’s CentOS Stream 9, AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux or an alternative community distribution.  Please get in touch here if you’d like to discuss the options available to you.