I think that running SAGE on a cluster will be more efficient than setting up a local SAGE server or even using the online SAGE sever at http://www.sagenb.org as we had originally planned. Its easy to use dSAGE on a multicore PC (SMP) but, setting up SAGE on a grid (much less a hybrid cluster) is not that obvious. We are going to have a little fun experimenting with all this!
SAGE is definitely working out as an alternative to Mathematica. We have used Octave before (alternative to MATLAB) but, the more I use SAGE, the more I am convinced that the students can learn it very quickly and get a lot of use out of it when studying Calculus. We also looked at C, C++, java and R, but I don't think that Calculus Research Lab is going to be a full-blown programming course. However, while using SAGE, we will program some functions in Python ala Mathematical Computing or Scientific Computing (Newton's Method, Riemann Sums, Euler's Method, etc).
Teaching with Technology,