Windows HPC set to take on Linux

Microsoft targets Wall Street but also focuses on mainstream

Microsoft Monday said it would ship Windows HPC Server 2008 on Nov. 1 with designs on challenging Linux for supplying high-performance computers and specifically taking aim at ailing Wall Street customers.

Windows High Performance Computing (HPC) Server 2008 is Microsoft’s entry into the battle with Linux to provide platforms for research and other compute intensive workloads.

Microsoft said at the High Performance on Wall Street Conference in New York that HPC Server 2008 had reached its “release to manufacturing” stage. The announcement comes at a time when the financial industry is in disarray.

In high-performance computing today, Linux is clearly the dominant player in the market with Microsoft battling to prove its mettle.

The previous version of HPC was originally called Windows Compute Cluster Server (CCS) 2003. It rose from a Microsoft Research project introduced in 2000. CCS 2003 shipped in August 2006.

HPC Server 2008, which is based on Windows Server 2008 64-bit Edition, features high-speed networking, cluster management tools, advanced failover capabilities, a service-oriented architecture job scheduler, and support for third-party clustered file systems.

The server, built to scale to thousands of cores, also include a high-speed NetworkDirect RDMA, Microsoft’s new remote direct memory access interface, and cluster interoperability through standards such as the High Performance Computing Basic Profile specification produced by the Open Grid Forum.

The platform combines into a single package the operating system, a message-passing interface and a job scheduler developed by Microsoft.

Microsoft plans to integrate HPC Server with its System Center tools for application-level monitoring and rapid provisioning by releasing an HPC Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager by year-end, according to Ryan Waite, product unit manager for HPC Server 2008.

Microsoft also is touting integration with Visual Studio Team Services, and F#, a development language, designed to help write new applications and rewrite old ones for parallel computing environments.

On the Linux front, Microsoft says HPC Server 2008, with its built in job scheduler, along with development and management tools will help it battle Linux.

“Linux does some things well, but we are looking at the holistic system," says Vince Mendillo, director of HPC in the server and tools division at Microsoft. Mendillo says that Microsoft also plans to push supercomputing into the mainstream market.

Red Hat has been offering Red Hat Enterprise Linux for HPC Compute Nodes since last year. Microsoft also has an integration partnership with Novell that covers HPC, including a dual-boot offering that combines SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.

Sun late last year entered the HPC fray with its Constellation System.

In addition, Microsoft and Cray last week struck a partnership on a “personal” super computer for $25,000.

Windows HPC Server 2008 will be added to Microsoft’s product price list on Nov. 1 at $475 per node. Evaluation copies are available for download here.  

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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