Oh, those pesky hobgoblins. I don't see where tar.gz is a hard requirement for a release, although I empathize with the needs of build machines.
I could conceive of running Crunch unit tests against a real cluster, although it would take some work-- we have a bunch of hooks in the unit tests so that they play nicely w/the jenkins machines (clean up after themselves, etc.) and we would need to adapt it for running on a real cluster.
Before I take this stuff back to crunch-dev so we can discuss, are there any other needs from bigtop that we should be cognizant of?