RD Controls Special Project Note 5.0<P> <b> Evaluation of WH14 SUN Management Needs</b>

RD Controls Special Project Note 5.0

Evaluation of WH14 SUN Management Needs

D.S. Baddorf


The configuration of SUN workstations on the 14th floor has been evolving. Two more SUNs will soon be added, to make a total of 3 SUN workstations. Jim has spent some time planning a disk configuration for the three. Each SUN's local disk will have its own copy of the operating system. This is for speed. Each disk will also have a ``user files'' area. This area will consist of those user files actually located on the local disk, plus a pointer link to a similar tree of user files on the other two workstations' local disks. This is conceptually similar to the multiple user disks WARNER uses, which are mounted on different nodes but equally accessible to all. The CAD/VLSI software is not copied to each disk (except for one part pertaining to plotting). It is remotely accessed from the one disk which actually has the copy.

A possible future configuration might involve a file-server node. All the user files would then reside on this extra computer. Each workstation would still have its own copy of the operating system (unlike WARNER) for speed considerations. This configuration calls the workstation nodes ``dataless'' rather than ``diskless'' since they do retain a disk and a copy of the operating system. (The vaxstation nodes on WARNER are considered diskless, though they do have local paging and swapping files.)


Jim Hoff estimates that he currently spends about 25% of his time doing ``management'' functions. This figure reflects his increased familiarity with UNIX and the fact that the system's configuration is stabilizing. I estimate a new manager would require at least 50-60% of his time during the learning phase. It would require more if a major configuration change was required. Much management formalization should be done (creating script files for many of the repetitive or just difficult tasks). This might take considerable time in the short run, but would be a necessity if the system does not stop growing at three nodes. Final time required will depend on the time currently spent in cleaning up management tasks, and on whether the user count continues to increase as the system grows. It usually does keep increasing.

Software and its Maintenance

Operating System

The systems run SUN OS, which is a SYSTEM 5 and UC/Berkeley compatible UNIX. Updates are distributed frequently. With each workstation configured to have its own copy of the operating system, OS version updates must be installed separately on each node. (On WARNER, there are two master copies which all nodes share, so there are two updates to be done.) Jim estimates an OS update takes about 2 hrs, so three nodes could be done in about a day. If the system evolves to include more nodes, more time will be required.

Adding new nodes to the system requires hardware time (to get cables and disk drives installed), and about 2 hours to run the installation procedure menu for the SUN OS operating system.

Only Jim (and the new manager) has system privileges, or access to alter these system files.

CAD software

The other software involved includes several CAD/VLSI packages.

Configuration of these packages has a user account being created for each package, with the name of the package as the username. Jim (or the manager) logs into these accounts to upgrade the software; no one else logs into these accounts or has write access to them. Any shared file templates or script/command files for using the tools is put into these accounts, and jointly used from there.

Jim suggests that installation and local modifications/improvements to these packages stay the responsibility of his group (him). These packages require a knowledgeable user for installation, and for any local improvement work. Jim estimates that half of his current 25% ``administrative'' time is actually spent here. This would include writing small command files to make the packages easier to use, to enhance batch work, etc.

This area of the management certainly would be easiest if left to the group which uses the packages, since any one else would have to become moderately proficient in their use before management would be effective. However, a manager who handles these packages too could more effectively assess the whole system, since the grasp of the whole picture would be improved. It would require more management time, both to learn the tools and to then manage them. Another consideration is that there should be some backup for Jim's expertise in managing the CAD packages, as well as the UNIX.

Software maintenance

UNIX operating system and HSPICE have yearly software maintenance contracts (probably much simpler than the DEC contracts in which I have to itemize each product and node). These supply telephone support of ``How do I do this?'' sort of questions. According to Jim, they haven't ever run into a ``this is broken'' sort of question about software, so there has been no bug-fix tracking involved.


Currently, a full backup of the 1.4 gigabytes of user files is performed once a week, to 8mm tapes. It is done ``in the background'' (whatever is the equivalent of VMS's batch queues) and can be scheduled ahead of time (like our batch queues) so I see no reason these backups couldn't be done daily. The extra work would be to scan a log file and change the tape daily.

Currently it takes 2 hours to back up the user area of disk on the existing one machine. When there are three machines, and when the disks begin to be equally full, it would take about 6 hours to backup the user areas. There will be only one tape drive for the three nodes. This could be done every night, in the middle of the night, to increase the backup security without much more work.

This backup does not currently include the operating system files. If OS files don't change very often, perhaps OS backups could be infrequent. I would still suggest at least a weekly backup of the OS area.

User Interfacing

There are currently about 5 people to be supported in this SUN user community. They will share the three workstations. Many are new to UNIX (since Jim has the current workstation, he has gained the most experience) and will take up a manager's time with questions and consultation. There are also CAD program questions to be fielded, though these might stay within the group unless the manager gets involved in the CAD software in depth. There is good (according to Jim) documentation for all the software, though users always have questions anyway.

Jim estimates currently he spends one afternoon per week on ``consultations'', with about half of this going to UNIX questions and half to CAD questions. This will continue to increase for a while, then probably start to decline as the group becomes familiar with the software. This will be affected by any hirings/retirings within the group, as well as any increase in the numbers of users.

I don't have a good feeling for the size of this laboratory section, and thus the potential for expansion of usage of the SUN workstations. However, once the initial group is doing ``good stuff'' with their workstations, other people will almost certainly want accounts and/or workstations too. The WARNER cluster currently has 21 accounts which were created solely for ASIC purposes, though many are from other groups. Jim didn't think the size would grow much beyond the current count, but I suspect it will.

Adding new user accounts is estimated at 15 minutes apiece (once you know what you are doing in UNIX). This could be reduced to about 5 if a shell script were written (a command file). Writing such a shell script might be a nice way for a new manager to get some practice in UNIX.

Other Management Tasks

Other management tasks which occur on WARNER:

What Help Do They Especially Need

Interfacing between VAX and UNIX computers. There are several categories of problems with which help is needed.

Security, Privacy, Legal