Microsoft unveils Windows HPC Server 2008 Beta

Microsoft unveils Windows HPC Server 2008 Beta

Giant rebrands and posts beta of next supercomputing OS

Microsoft is renewing efforts to bring high-performance computing (HPC) into the mainstream with the release of a first public beta-test version of Windows HPC Server 2008.

Windows HPC Server 2008 is the newly branded successor to Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. It is based on Windows Server 2008 but adds high-end clustering, job scheduling and failover capabilities for supercomputing tasks. While the first release was aimed at bringing HPC into commercial environments and simplifying academic deployments, Microsoft said the new name is intended to reflect the system’s readiness for tougher HPC loads, including those that will vie to make the Top500 roster that benchmarks the fastest clusters in operation. Microsoft said it also sees potential for speeding up web services operations with the release, the final version of which is scheduled for the second half of 2008.

Microsoft plans to improve administration with a common set of System Centre tools that cover desktops and clusters, and, in a characteristic move, also hopes to grow its HPC ecosystem with a new programme called the Parallel Computing Initiative. The scheme will offer runtimes, programming models, libraries and tools for supporting parallelism across more commercial applications. Technology previews are scheduled to arrive over the next six months.

Many experts believe that Microsoft can bring HPC to a far broader field than the specialists it has so far touched.

“Unlike the telescope or stethoscope, which are relevant only in their respective fields, HPC is a universal tool that applies across the scientific and engineering
Disciplines,” wrote supercomputing expert John E. West in an email. “As more organisations bring HPC to the problems that they are solving, I see a real potential for disruptive breakthroughs, some of which may radically transform a practice, industry, or even the way we live. If Microsoft is successful it will democratise high-performance computing along the way, in a way no other company is really positioned to do.”

However, Microsoft will have a tough fight to combat the dominance of Linux in new HPC environments. Red Hat today said it will work with Platform Computing on a packaged product called the Red Hat HPC Solution.