Microsoft is readying a version of its Windows Server operating system that will let users link dozens of standards-based systems to get the processing power available today in big symmetric multiprocessing boxes.Microsoft\u00a0is readying a version of its Windows Server operating system that will let users link dozens of standards-based systems to get the processing power available today in big symmetric multiprocessing boxes.Last week, Microsoft confirmed that it is developing Windows Server 2003, HPC Edition, geared for customers in industries such as engineering, life sciences and finance, where scalable, parallel computing is becoming more mainstream. The software, expected to ship in the second half of next year, is a departure from Microsoft's current approach to clustering, which is limited to shifting entire workloads between systems, says Dennis Oldroyd, director of Windows Server at Microsoft."The\u00a0clustering\u00a0services that are included in Windows Server Enterprise and Data Center editions do things like failover management and load balancing," he says. "In a high-performance computing, parallel environment you split the problem out and divide it over nodes that are on the cluster, using technology called [Message Passing Interface] to send messages between the nodes."That means all the nodes in the cluster can act as a single pool of resources to provide high-performance processing power, he says. The market is growing rapidly and today\u00a0Linux\u00a0is the dominant operating system for most high-performance computing (HPC) clusters, analysts say.Product revenue in the HPC clustering market was $2.4 billion in 2003 and is expected to jump to $5.1 billion by 2008, according to IDC. "It's a real market, and by and large it has been driven by Linux," says Chris Willard, research vice president of HPC systems at IDC.As HPC clusters become more mainstream and make their way into commercial enterprise data centers, it's not surprising to see Microsoft start planning a packaged offering, Willard says. Today, customers can deploy HPC clusters on Windows but must use third-party tools and configure the clusters themselves. With Win 2003, HPC Edition, Microsoft aims to simplify the process of deploying Windows-based clusters."This market is starting to transition out of that historical academic and research focus into the commercial enterprise," Oldroyd says. "What we've seen from our customers is that they're starting to look at this technology, and they'd like to have it available on Windows."Last month, Linux clustering software specialist PolyServe rolled out a product for deploying clusters running Windows 2000 and Win 2003 using a clustered file system to let all servers tied to a storage-area network share data. Oldroyd wouldn't say whether Win 2003, HPC Edition, would include a clustered filed system.Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel and Verari Systems have said they will support Win 2003, HPC Edition. Cornell Theory Center (CTC), which has run a Windows-based HPC cluster for years, also is supporting the effort.Pricing for Win 2003, HPC Edition, has not been released.