By dlacher on Apr 16, 2008
My manager called and asked if I wanted to fly over to Scotland to setup Nessie... that is right, we have a corny nickname for the cluster that matches the region of the world in which it is located. Of course I said that I would travel the world to setup a massive cluster so that we could make Sun HPC ClusterTools a more rock solid product. I have a passion for playing with the hardware as well as the software and have not been able to do that for some time. After the right folks all signed off I was given the green light to pack the bags and book the travel. So off I went.
I left the United States late one evening and landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands the next day on my birthday. On the flight over I watched, The Simpsons Movie, and American Gangster. I had a 11 hour layover so I headed into the city to walk around a bit. My plan was to first find a nice little cafe to have a coffee at, notice I said cafe instead of coffeehouse there is a difference. I chatted a bit with the barista and got some good directions on where to head to just browse around the city. I was pointed down a small side street to reach the canals and which ones might be better to see. While walking around with the day pack, the earbuds in and a camera out... I am sure I stood out like a tourist. Now after some wondering around a bit along with the lack of sleep I think I was basically lost, well that would mean that I knew where I was to begin with. I was just about to ask for directions when I saw the train station. I stopped by a small pub close the train station for a birthday drink. After that I headed back to the airport for a nap. Late that day I arrived in Edinburgh and off to the hotel for a couple hours of sleep before I headed off to the Sun facility to get cranking on the cluster setup.
After arriving a little late for my first day of cluster hacking (man I needed even more sleep) I was hooked up with some of the local folks on sight, given the quick ESD overview and pointed to the lab. The cluster will consist of 1024 v20z nodes, each with two AMD procs. The nodes are broken down 32 to a rack and there will thus be 32 racks. By the time I left we had the SPs up on 576 and Solaris installed or ready to be installed on 480 of them... ran out of hardware to get the three other racks up with Solaris. The other 14 racks are waiting for a power issue in the lab to be resolved and then they can come up online. I don't take all the credit, the local folks all ready had the racks in place and power to them and I was joined by a colleague from the London area.
While spending the week in Edinburgh I did venture out for dinner each night and a little sight seeing. Note, that almost all of the shops close at 18:00, plan accordingly. I had some great food while out in the city including some local favorites... fish and chips, bangers and mash. I did not partake of traditional Scottish breakfast... I stuck to my americano and muffin from one of the cafes right by the hotel. The Edinburgh castle was amazing and all of the sites along the royal mile. A full collection of photos from the trip can be found over here.
The travel home was a little eventful, I was delayed leaving Edinburgh do to a security issue with baggage on the flight I was on. By the time it was resolved all the bags were removed from the plane, laid out on the tarmac, each person had to claim their bags, re-board the plane, the extra bag was identified, removed and the flight finally took off... two hours late and two connections in Amsterdam down the drain. I stand behind the pilots decision to ensure that the correct bags were accounted for and unknown bags were not onboard in this day and age of travel. All delays aside, KLM is my new favorite airline. Their level of customer service is second to none. I have not flown Southwest or Jet Blue but the KLM folks know how to do it right for their passengers in flight, the counter crew could be a little more friendly. On the flights home I watched The Bourne Ultimatum and The Kite Runner. I finally made it home 17 hours later than I was set to and a couple hours late for my little girls birthday party. No worries, I was here for the presents and the cake but missed the pinata.
All and all a great trip and a wonderful experience... I would head back anytime to work on the cluster and to help bring the over half up when the power issue is worked out.