March 3, 2005 12:41 PM PST

Windows for supercomputers likely out by fall

SAN FRANCISCO-- Microsoft is aiming to have its first cluster version of Windows ready in time for a supercomputing conference this fall.

Software Architect Marvin Theimer said on Thursday that the company hopes to have a beta, or test version, by this summer, with the final version of Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition ready by the SC05 supercomputing conference in November.

The company has not announced final pricing for the operating system, but Theimer said the additional computers, or nodes, of a cluster will be priced at a discount.

"When you buy a cluster, the price per node in the cluster is going to be reduced" compared to regular Windows, Theimer said in a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum here. "We want to be competitive with something like Red Hat."

However, Theimer said the cluster version will include some restrictions on how the version can be used to prevent companies from performing standard Web hosting or other functions.

CNET News.com first reported Microsoft's plans to offer a tailored version of Windows last May. Microsoft confirmed its supercomputer plans last June.

The first version will reproduce many basic features of Linux clusters, Theimer said.

For example, it will include support for the Message Passing Interface, or MPI, the communication foundation of cluster software. And it will include programming tools for writing software that runs on clusters.

Theimer also outlined Microsoft's goals for two follow-up versions. The next version of the Compute Cluster edition will extend to Microsoft's .Net programming infrastructure, letting developers write software using the C# programming language, he said. Although such code runs more slowly than C programs running directly on Windows, writing programs in C# that run atop .Net is easier and more secure.

Often, Theimer said, it's more important to have a program as soon as possible than to have it running at peak performance, he said.

"Anything that improves my development time is worth the trouble," he said.

That version also will be able to manage "cycle harvesting" jobs that put otherwise-idle PCs to productive use, he said. Cycle harvesting--best exemplified by the SETI@Home project to scour radio telescope signals for extraterrestrial communication--only is useful for about 10 percent of high-performance technical computing tasks, he added.

A third version will include developer improvements to ease programming on clusters. It also will include high-level management tools and will help customers integrate their high-performance computing equipment with the rest of their infrastructure, he said.

Theimer said this market became interesting to Microsoft as the use of clusters moved beyond government and academic settings into businesses. Car companies and drug companies are among the early users of such clusters, he said, noting that Microsoft has a cluster internally that its treasury uses to evaluate the company's vast investment portfolio.

The other factor that makes the market compelling is the availability of off-the-shelf software for various industries to do such computing work. In the past, companies had to write their own custom applications.

Even Microsoft's Excel can benefit, he said, noting that some businesses have worksheets that can take hours to calculate. Today, such work requires third-party add-ons such as software from Platform Computing. However, Theimer said that Microsoft may be interested in offering that capability itself. "Microsoft is also looking at this," Theimer said.

26 comments

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FUBAR at Light Speed
--- beyond any recognition.

There are so many undocumented, yet known bugs in 2003, it is
inconceivable to consider the idea of creating a super-cluster
with the OS. Must be some sort of experiment.

As for practicality, i can only laugh.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So right
MS needs to stop trying to play with the big boys. They will only get crushed.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Three versions of the same OS?
Did I understand this correctly.
There will be a standard version....A version aimed at .Net development....and a thrid version that plays nicely with the other computers?

Wouldn't it be better just to develop a version of Windows 2003 for clusters. Develop tools for integrating it into the existing infrastructure. Create libraries and api's for visual studio that are specific to programs running in a cluster environment?

It sounds like they're rushing another half completed product out the door just so they can have something to sell. Which isn't surprising considering this comment...
<---quote
Often, Theimer said, it's more important to have a program as soon as possible than to have it running at peak performance, he said.
end quote ---->
That pretty much sums up Microsofts attitude doesn't it?

Everyone who wants their bank or brokerage firm to handle your money running programs like that raise you hand. How about your auto mechanic, anyone out there okay with taking your car in for service and getting it back so it runs...doesn't run the way it should but it runs?

No?

Okay...okay...okay...::waves his hands:: Your home's oil heater is burning oil. So you call the heater repair man. He fixes your heater but tells you okay your heater is now burning less oil. Do you ...
A. Pay his fee and thank him for a partial job well done.
B. Schedual other appointments in the hopes that eventually your heater will work the way it's supposed to.
C. Pitch a fit and expect the job to be done right.
Posted by mariusthull (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
shhh
MS doesn't like common sense. You will make Uncle Bill cry.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Viruses anyone?
Now we all know the "security" of Bill's OS line.

So now if an infected PC with a quite good harware can churn out 10000 infected emails in let's say an hour what do you suppose an 1024 processor cluster could churn out.

And additionally I'm sure many hackers wanted to hack supercomputers, here is their chance.

So now instead of building your own OS based on *NIX to maximise your superserver's performance you doll out some serious cash to Bill to get an unoptimized wreck of an OS that probably needs some good 'ol slowing via antiviruses and such. Two thumbs up. Keep at it Bill.
Posted by (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To err is human....
.. To really err, you need a computer

.. For a real bomb, the computer needs to run Windows

.. At the thermonuclear level, use Windows on a cluster.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, don't underestimate MS.
Just think about how super-keen it would be to get a supercomputer to actually melt down.

I wonder how fast the Blue Screen of Death comes up on a supercomputer.

I wonder if Disney is casting Bill Gates in the coming remake of Tron.

They could have Norton play Tron, Steve Jobs could play Flynn....

NWLB
****
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.nwlbnet.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.nwlbnet.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reboot the cluster
I'm sorry but our network is temporarily off-line. We expect the cluster to complete rebooting and reconnecting in about 2 hours.

Windows XP "Cluster F***" Edition (to borrow a term from the military)
Posted by sanjef (31 comments )
Link Flag
I want MS to keep going...
I don't know about the rest of you, but I want Microsoft to keep going. Keep building their OS, integrate everything into it. They should just go for it all...

Why do I say this? Cause it makes my OS X safer since everyone targets Windows. If they stop, then hackers will start to prey on other OSes.

So I say... Keep going MS!!!
Posted by vanox (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
S M, I'm with you!
Speaking as a recent Switcher myself (new 1.8 iMac G5 as of 10/2004), the reason I dumped my 2.8 P4 in favor of a 1.8 G5 was the OS. I'd put the performance ("perceived speed" of the computer) of the G5 on par with the 2.8 P4. It's the operating system that presents the greatest difference for me.
Posted by sanjef (31 comments )
Link Flag
Apple already offers these solutions...
Lets see....hmmm, first off, OS X Server is the same no matter
what, and works fine on clusters. Xgrid already speeds up
cluster programming. On top of that the Xserve G5 offers one
the best cost/performance ratios out there...why wait to get
some crappy windows beta that'll give you a clustered virus???
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Isn't XP better then linux?
According to MS vs. linux...Microsoft is better...so now they are admitting that they are creating this with features that have been in linux?? Hmm.. sounds like MS still up to its old games. Lower TCO my anus... "They want it as cheap as Redhat" They think redhat is linux, it is not!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
how `bout cluster for xp?
is there even a cluster for it? if so... they should
build one.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this is a jinxt copy(^)
i messed this one up, no edit menu!
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
how `bout cluster for xp?
they should come out with one for xp. i'm a linux user myself, with plans to build clusters for suse, mac, &#38; xp pro-then access them all using pvn.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
another jinxed comment
where's that edit button?
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
cluster for xp
wow reuel !! it seems to be a great idea ..but wat r u exactly planning for ??
Posted by hemant chahal (1 comment )
Link Flag
how `bout cluster for xp?
they should build one! i plan on building clusters for suse linux, mac, xp pro-accessing them via pvn using mosix cluster on the suse.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ahh.. this is the right one!
i haven't been in a forum in a while(especially where there's not an edit button next to each reply)!
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
 

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