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In Search of Clusters (2nd Edition) 2nd Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0138997090
ISBN-10: 0138997098
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Simon Guerrero (w-beard@netcomuk.co.uk) from Stone, Staffordshire UK ,
04/23/98, rating=10:



Learn about clusters without falling asleep


About a month ago I started work on a project running on a small cluster and
involving the Oracle 8 Parallel Server at a low level (writing the Distributed
Lock Manager support libraries for a certain OS). At this point, I'd never used
(or even seen!) a clustered system, and I knew nothing about clusters at all.
Then a colleague loaned me the first edition of Dr Pfister's book. Unwilling
to be over-eager to learn anything out of 'paid' time, I opened the book with
some trepidation, expecting to find the usual dessicated prose and tons of
TLAs. What a pleasant surprise! From the 'legal stuff' at the front of the book
('a kind of garlic'), right through to the bibliography ('I found this paper
almost unreadable'), the author understands the need of the reader to remain
conscious through what is potentially the dullest of subjects and emerge,
slightly surprised ('Did I actually enjoy that?') at the other end. Thousands
of college lecturers have a lot to learn from this man!



The second edition of the book is more a re-write than an update, and just as
packed with anecdotes, humour (right down to pseudo-Paul Simon lyrics - people
were hanged for less in the Wild West), and at the same time, probably the most
thorough explanations of the why/how/when/wheres of clustering you will find in
any book. As the quote on the back says 'This book is what would happen if
Scott Adams wrote a book on parallel computers'... Full marks!

From the Publisher

This provocative new book explains an increasingly popular form of parallel or distributed computing that is frequently misunderstood. A leading expert on multiprocessing, Pfister demonstrates that clusters are a distinct form of parallel computing with extraordinary potential and highlights the critical role clusters can play in downsizing. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 2 edition (December 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0138997098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0138997090
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have said, this is an excellent book and is a *must have* for anyone exploring practically any aspect of cluster computing. Even beyond the quality of the information conveyed, the writing style is wonderful and the author makes an otherwise abstract and cumbersome topic quite readable and quite approachable. This book is regarded as the Clustering Bible worldwide, and I've seen copies placed prominently in the bookshelves of individuals in Beijing, Tokyo, Paris, and the US. Microsoft's own Cluster Server was codenamed 'Wolfpack', as an honerable reference to the cover art of this specific book.

Aaron McKee
Clustering Products Manager
TurboLinux Inc.
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Format: Paperback
This book provides a terrific introduction to the hardware, software, and systems architecture of parallel computing, candidly discussing the issues and trade-offs in various approaches. The emphasis is on clusters, but there is lots of information on the whole continuum from single processor machines to SMPs to clusters to distributed computing. Pfister will leave you with a better understanding of things like how SMP machines keep processor caches coherent, what the differences are between SMP, NUMA, and distributed computing, how various cluster products work, real world cluster issues (like system administration), programming models used in parallel computing, and why programming code that runs efficently on these architectures is usually the hard part.
The book is somewhat dated - nothing about Beowolf for example - but the concepts remain valid. Many of the issues are illustrated with reference to mainframe clusters, especially IBM's 390 sysplex, which I found particularly interesting since I don't have much experience with these systems.
The style is highly readable and informal, but not insultingly non-technical. The book is loaded with opinion and insights - it is not a dry textbook of issues related to clustering. Highly recommended for anyone in the business of creating information systems that need to run fast.
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Format: Paperback
Other reviewers, both publishers and individuals, have already said many good things about this book. Believe them all. There's plenty of meat for the greying professional yet it's accessible (and enjoyable) to the relative neophyte.
The author has been compared to Scott Adams. While his style is eminently readable, I think this may not entirely do it justice: I'd be more inclined to liken his ability to present detailed concepts in an approachable manner to that of Richard Feynman - though as a non-neophyte with an intense interest in the subject matter my evaluation may be biased.
If you have an interest in high-performance, high-availability processing and/or SANs (whether you call them 'storage area networks' or 'system area networks'), there may well be no better single source of information. If you simply have an interest in computers in general, you could just read it for fun.
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Format: Paperback
I wish there would be a book like this with today's (2011) perspective. The world has changed and unfortunately this book has become a history book.

The book was written before SMP became ubiquitous, before virtual machines with massive multi-threading, before application servers with clustering, before widespread use of web technologies.

But it provides an interesting history of HW based clustering, clustered batch processing and scientific parallel processing capabilities.
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Format: Paperback
The revision, like the Original is fresh and engaging - offering complex technical concepts in bite sized, palatable parcels.
Mr. Pfister has done something wonderful for the computer industry with this book. The term clustering has been miss used and miss understood, often with drastic consquences, since Digtal released VMS V4.0 (and within clustering) and UNIX vendors tried to copy it.
Greg Pfister has done a level set, defining terms and concepts and than comparing each implementation's strengths and weaknesses with a unique blend of clarity and humor.
I recommend this book for 3 camps: I consider it classic example of how to write a technical book, it is helpful for anyone wanting to develop or exploit reliable systems and it is a must read for folks considering or already involved with NT server Enterprise Edition.
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Pfister with humor and clarity has explained scalability. His book is insightful, clear and an excellent introduction to the benefits of clustering (that is working together) both in terms of hardware and software. His revision updates the industry and keeps pace with one of the fastest moving arenas of computing.
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By A Customer on February 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
With the advent of the Clustering Technology Formerly Known as Wolfpack, clustering has entered the computing mainstream. As a contributor to several white papers and studies on the subject, Shannon Knows DEC is no stranger to clustering technology. Nevertheless, while plenty has been written about clustering, vendor-specific collateral and trade press articles leave a great deal to be desired. Until now, customers seeking in-depth knowledge of modestly parallel computing have been unable to turn to a comprehensive information source. In an effort to cater to prospective adopters of Microsoft Cluster Server or NUMA-based systems, IBM engineer and cluster guru Greg Pfister recently published In Search of Clusters, Second Edition. In this 550-page book, Pfister manages to render a variety of complex technical issues understandable to those of us who do not possess a degree in computer science. The author makes ample use of analogies (including the now-famous "pack of dogs" example from which the Wolfpack sobriquet was derived) to point out the differences between parallel, cluster, and distributed systems, and to help his readers make sense of acronyms such as SMP, MPP, and NUMA. Technically oriented readers will appreciate the fact that Pfister reviews various clustering implementations-and the strengths and weaknesses of each offering-in great detail. The book hardly qualifies as light reading, but if you can understand SKD, you'll have no problem getting your money's worth from Greg's tutorial. In Search of Clusters, Second Edition (ISBN 0-13-899709-8) is available from AMAZON.COM. If you're contemplating the purchase of a clustered system, or if you're looking for insightful coverage of this evolving technology, In Search of Clusters definitely belongs on your bookshelf. Terry Shannon Publisher, Shannon Knows DEC
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