Microsoft High on Performance
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Microsoft will be offering an edition of Windows Server 2003 designed for high-performance computing (HPC).
Dubbed Windows Server 2003, HPC Edition, the product will serve customers running scalable, parallel computing workloads in vertical market segments, such as engineering, life sciences and finance, and it will include established industry standards, such as Message Passing Interface.
Microsoft has promised a secure platform for HPC application development, cluster deployment and management. One element of that will likely be Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), a set of tools that allow IT administrators to monitor the events, health and performance information of a Windows Server infrastructure and application environment. MOM is a key element of the company's Dynamic Systems Initiative, a plan to make it easier to design, deploy and manage complex distributed computing systems.
In May, Ilya Bukshteyn, Microsoft director of product management for Windows Server System, told internetnews.com that the server group is working with Microsoft's R&D group to investigate how Microsoft can bring its Dynamic Systems Initiative to bear on supercomputing.
IBM has a lucrative deal to supply supercomputing power to the U.S. Weather Service via its IBM Deep Computing Unit, which runs a cluster of 44 IBM p690 Regatta servers along with 42 terabytes of IBM FastT500 storage servers, providing 7.3 teraflops of computing power, or two trillion mathematical operations per second.
Supercomputer specialist Cray signed a five-year $43.2 million contract with the Korea Meteorological Administration to establish an Earth System Research Center for advanced atmospheric modeling in the East Asia Pacific region. It also partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory on a joint project to build a 100-teraflop supercomputer.
While supercomputers were the purview of "big iron" hardware makers, according to Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox, the growing need for HPC has led to the development of clustered supercomputers using Linux, Mac OS X and other non-mainframe operating systems.
"These clusters would run on the same hardware as Windows, so it makes sense that Microsoft would want to play in that market, as well," Wilcox said. Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are both owned by Jupitermedia.
Microsoft's server move could help stave off the hard-charging assault of Linux servers, a battle it has conceded on the Web server front.
According to the Apache Foundation, the non-profit organization that oversees development of the open source Apache Web server software, Apache is the most widely implemented Web server platform, and two recent surveys pegged its market share at 70.48 percent and 69.01 percent, respectively.
High-performance computing may be moving toward Linux, as well. IBM is building a Linux-based supercomputer; a smaller, prototype version, Blue Gene/L, has been clocked at a peak speed of 2 teraflops. When it's completed, it will consist of a group of machines that will occupy 64 full racks and operate at about 360 teraflops.
Windows Server 2003, HPC Edition, is expected to ship in the second half of 2005 at a still undetermined price. Redmond said it would be supported by OEMs, middleware vendors and ISVs, including AMD, Dell, IBM, Intel, HP, Verari and Cornell Theory Center.
Along with ease of management, Microsoft promised the HPC Edition will provide low total-cost-of ownership. These value-adds will have to be valuable enough to beat free.