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GNU/Linux Distributions

California Digital offers a variety of GNU/Linux distributions on our Itanium2, Xeon64, and Opteron servers. We can recommend the best distribution to meet your needs or install the option you prefer. California Digital provides comprehensive software support through our Total Linux Coverage™ support program. If you opt for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, that includes support directly from Red Hat.

Available distibutions are as follows:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0 ES: The ES version is available for $800 per node on Xeon64, Xeon, Itanium2, and Opteron systems. If this option is selected, an official copy of RHEL will be installed and the official media, license, and documentation will be shipped with the system. Support is hence available from Red Hat in addiiton to California Digital.

  • Scientific Linux 3.0: Scientific Linux can be installed free of charge on any Xeon64 or Opteron system. Support is included from California Digital. Scientific Linux is a good choice for users desiring extensive compatibility with popular distributions.

  • Debian GNU/Linux: Debian is available on all Xeon64, Itanium2, and Opteron systems. California Digital's engineering team prefers Debian, but we recognize that some users are less familiar with Debian than with some of the other choices. Support is included from California Digital.


Installation of RHEL or Scientific Linux will get the kernels installed with those distributions, presently 2.4.21-24. Debian installations receive a 2.6.9 kernel.

Large customers needing specific kernel features are invited to make their requirements known. California Digital's kernel team can backport specific functions to specific kernels to achieve desired compatibility. This happens most frequently with major kernel revisions (such as the 2.4 to 2.6 evolution) when desired features from a newer kernel branch are incompatible with applications requiring older kernels, libraries, or applications.

Headless Platform Management

FreeIPMI and BIOSConfig are a free software projects undertaken by California Digital (and since joined by others) to fundamentally change how remote systems management is achieved under GNU/Linux. This innovative technology rests upon the libfreeipmi library that provides low-level interaction with systems implementaing the complete IPMI 1.5 specification. FISH, the FreeIPMI SHell, provides a scheme-based scripting interface to libfreeipmi and enables users to harness the power of FreeIPMI.

FreeIPMI fundamentally differs from OpenIPMI in being a user space rather than a kernel space implementation. FreeIPMI has been deployed on the 20 teraflop Thunder cluster at Lawrence Livermore National Lab using California Digital 6440 and 6420 systems, as well as on clusters of California Digital 1620 systems.

Many motherboard vendors advertise compliance but do not fully implement the IPMI 1.5 (or 2.0) specification. For that reason, FreeIPMI may be less powerful on other hardware.

FreeIPMI allows a user to execute commands from the GNU/Linux command line from a remote computer to perform basic system management functions on a remote system:

  • Power on
  • Power off
  • Environmanetal monitoring
  • Watchdog
  • System Event Log

A complete discussion of FreeIPMI is beyond the scope of this webpage. Interested users are encouraged to visit FreeIPMI web site at gnu.org.

BIOSConfig allows user to save, restore, edit and replicate BIOS settings across a cluster.


Gluster is a meta cluster distribution for HPC clusters and data centers. Gluster converts a workstation or server distribution into a cluster distribution. User performs a stand-alone installation using standard off-the-shelf GNU/Linux CDs and then boots off Gluster from an external bootable medium (like CD, USB drive..) to start the cluster installation. Gluster installer observes the existing installation as a bunch of disks, partitions and file system. Cluster installation process is as simple as powering on the rest of the nodes and letting them join the installation process. With IPMI compliant systems, even power cycling can be automated. Post installation prepares these nodes for clustering and additionally allows the user to feed his own custom scripts.

Unlike OSCAR and KickStart, Gluster is distribution independent and can re-image new or corrupted nodes from other existing nodes. In a data center mode, Gluster can choose a master server to replicate or optionally maintain system images on a single centralized server.


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