Microsoft Edges Further into HPC

As Microsoft readies the release of its HPC Server 2008 for later this year, the company is showing signs of an increased presence in the high-performance computing market. Wednesday, Microsoft released details of nine HPC projects in higher education using its Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, all of which launched within the last nine months.

HPC Server 2008 will be the successor to Compute Cluster Server 2003 (CCS 2003). Microsoft has said for some time that it will be released in the second half of 2008. We spoke with Microsoft yesterday about the schedule for its release, and a representative said it's still on target for this year, though an announcement for the specific release date is "still a few months out."

HPC Server 2008 went into its first round of beta testing in November. The second stage of the beta program launched just last month. Microsoft told us that it's seen a LINPACK performance increase of 30 percent in HPC Server 2008 (beta 1) compared with CCS 2003. Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's United States education general manager, said that further LINPACK trial results will be released later this month to coincide with the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

It's unknown exactly how many universities are participating in the HPC Server 2008 beta program, but Brian Hammond, Microsoft HPC specialist, said the figure is "in the hundreds."

Meanwhile, CCS 2003 has gained momentum in research institutions, a space that's dominated by Unix and Linux. Microsoft released details of nine projects in the United States that have been implemented over the last nine months or so, one as recently as two weeks ago. These include:

Those using CCS 2003 who participate in Microsoft's Software Assurance program will be able to migrate automatically to HPC Server 2008 when it's released later this year. Rutgers will be among those making the transition.

"We are looking forward to moving to Windows HPC Server 2008 when it becomes available specifically for research at the Center for Autonomic Computing at Rutgers," said Manish Parashar, a Rutgers professor and co-director of the Center for Autonomic Computing, in a statement released today. "HPC Server 2008 will provide us with some key capabilities such as integrated virtualization support, which we can use to support a wide class of applications. It will also provide us with interesting autonomic behaviors for power and energy management, performance and productivity management, and dynamic on-demand scaling."

"Microsoft has been focused on working with education throughout our history," Microsoft's Hammond told us. "HPC is a new space for us, but it crosses over into our core platform." HPC Server 2008 is built on Windows Server 2008, a fact that, according to Hammond, will make the migration path less complex. "We're hopeful that we'll have a rapid transition to 2008 when it becomes available. We're trying to take the power, ease of use, and optimization of the Microsoft platform and apply it to challenges universities are facing."

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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