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Microsoft Ships Compute Cluster Server 2003

Microsoft has released its high-performance computing (HPC) platform -- dubbed Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 -- to manufacturing, meaning it will be available to customers in August, the company said Friday. However, evaluation copies will be distributed at Microsoft's TechEd 2006 developers conference in Boston the week of June 11.

The server is Microsoft's first foray into the high-performance computing market. Microsoft initially planned to ship the product last year, but retargeted it for the first half of 2006 last November.

“We feel we're on a path to making HPC mainstream…to make it a lot easier than it is today [whereas] the complexity is till too high,” said John Borozan, a group product manager in the Windows Server Division.

The company shipped Beta 2 of Compute Cluster Server in November and the first “release candidate” or RC a month ago.

Why is Microsoft interested? Money, obviously. As many as eight percent of x86 servers sold are used in HPC roles, Borozan said, when Beta 2 shipped. That's a lot of servers by anyone's count.

“The marketplace we're predominantly targeting here is the commercial marketplace. And while this product will scale to hundreds of nodes, we think the sweet spot, and certainly the most profitable part of the marketplace for high-performance computing is in the 8- to 64-node range,” Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, told developers gathered in Seattle last month for the company's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

The system is intended for use in clusters of inexpensive machines that work simultaneously on the same problem. The server's base code is Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. However, the HPC server software will only run on systems that support Intel's and AMD's 64-bit memory addressing technologies.

Microsoft also trotted out a list of more than 30 hardware and software partners that are scheduled, it says, to release by the end of 2006 solutions that “run on, or interoperate with,” CCS 2003. Included on that list: AMD, Broadcom, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, NEC and Wolfram Research.

With volume licensing, Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, costs $469 per server node. Interested parties can get the evaluation software here.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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