Microsoft Releases Beta of High-Performance Computing Server

Microsoft took the next step into the arena of high-performance computing (HPC) today when it announced the release of the first beta of Windows HPC Server 2008, the successor to Compute Cluster Server 2003.

The public beta was scheduled to be available here; as of presstime, however, no download was listed on the Website. The final version is expected to be generally available in the second half of 2008, Microsoft said in a press release.

The product was renamed, Microsoft said, "to reflect its readiness to tackle the most challenging HPC workloads". HPC Server 2008 is based on Windows 2008, slated for availability early next year; it will be a specially-crafted version meant to run on large clusters. Microsoft revealed few details of the server, but did list a number of key features, including a service oriented architecture (SOA) job scheduler; support for partners' clustered file systems; better failover capabilities; more efficient and scalable management tools; and high-speed networking.

Kyril Faenov, general manager of HPC at Microsoft, said in the release that Redmond has seen substantial gains in its HPC environment from the new server. "By upgrading to Windows HPC Server 2008 on our 2,048-core production test cluster, we increased the LINPACK performance by 30 percent and were able to deploy and validate the cluster in less than two hours using out-of-the-box software. Expanding beyond traditional MPI [Message Passing Interface]-based HPC applications, Windows HPC Server 2008 enables support for high-throughput SOA applications with its advanced Web service routing capability and paves the way for bringing HPC capabilities to a broad range of enterprise applications."

LINPACK is a software program that solves high-level mathematical equations. It's frequently used as a benchmark for computing power and performance.

Five years is a long time in the computer age for a new server release, but HPC Server 2008 has followed nearly the same timeline as Windows 2008, which will be released about five years after Windows Server 2003. Until Compute Cluster Server 2003's arrival on the scene, Microsoft had largely been frozen out of the HPC space. It was dominated by "big iron" and more scalable OSes like Unix and Linux.

HPC is still largely confined to the realm of science, engineering and medical and other research; many of the largest computer clusters are found at research universities. The trend over the last few years has been to put more cores on processors and more processors on chips, as it's been getting more and more difficult to squeeze additional performance out of a single processor.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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