Microsoft Plans to Take On Linux in High-Performance Computing

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-06-09 Print this article Print

Microsoft's goal: to take the technology to a mainstream audience and give every researcher and scientist access to supercomputing power from their desks within five years.

Microsoft is finally ready to enter the high-performance computing market, a technology dominated by open-source Linux technology.

The Redmond, Wash., software maker released Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 to manufacturing on June 9, with general availability of the product scheduled for August.

It will be sold via volume licensing and OEM licensing for an estimated price of $469 a node, but prices will vary depending on the license and volume, John Borozan, group product manager for the Windows Server Division, told eWEEK.

Evaluation copies of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, a 64-bit operating system for industry-standard x64 processors, will be handed out to attendees of Microsoft's TechEd 2006 conference in Boston the week of June 12, he said.

Click here to read more about Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.

This is Microsoft's first software offering designed specifically to run parallel, high-performance computing applications for customers, and it provides a platform that can be deployed, operated and integrated with existing infrastructure and tools. Customers can also leverage their existing development skills using Visual Studio 2005, Borozan said.

The upcoming availability of the Windows Compute Cluster Server marks a milestone for Microsoft, which is a late-comer to a market largely dominated by Linux software.

While Microsoft will release a single 64-bit-only version of the software, it will run on all the hardware platforms supported by Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, on which it is based.

All the major OEMs, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and NEC Solutions America, as well as the major interconnect vendors, have announced support for the product.

Customer demand for HPC is being driven by increased performance in processors per compute node, the low acquisition price per node and the overall price/performance of compute clusters. These trends are driving new customers to adopt HPC to replace or supplement live, physical experiments with computer-simulated modeling, tests and analysis, Borozan said.

Analyst firm IDC says it expects unit shipments for HPC to expand by more than 12 percent annually over the next five years, and that high-performance computing clusters will see substantial customer adoption in the lower-end capacity segments of the market.

Uses of the Windows Compute Cluster Server by early adopters span oil and gas reservoir simulation and seismic processing; life sciences use for simulations of enzyme catalysis and protein folding; and vehicle design and safety improvements.

One customer, Cornell University's Computational Biology Service Unit, in Ithaca, N.Y., has adopted Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 as a platform for computational biology applications of a wide range of research activities in bioinformatics, including sequence-based data mining, population genetics and protein structure prediction.

"Adopting Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 was a natural step for us, since we use SQL Server for our database needs and Windows servers for hosting our Web interfaces," said Dr. Jaroslaw Pillardy, a senior research associate at the Biology Service Unit.

"In addition to serving massively parallel applications, I've found that Windows Compute Cluster Server is a convenient tool for serving the computational needs of many small projects, where installing the software, updating databases and managing other such tasks are much easier with this than on a set of separate computers," he said.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Microsoft Plans to Take On Linux in High-Performance Computing

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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