Updated 3:12 p.m. to correct the number of the highest ranking Windows cluster
While Windows is ubiquitous on the desktop and well represented in the server racks, until recently it has been nearly absent from the world's largest supercomputers.
Starting several years ago, though, Microsoft made a concerted effort at this part of the market, creating a separate version of Windows solely for computing clusters.
The first big fruits of that effort were evidenced in this year's top 500 list of the world's biggest supercomputers. Five of those on the list were Windows clusters, including one at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications that ranked No. 23.
Of course, that still leaves 495 that aren't running Windows at all.
But, it's significant progress, says Bill Hilf, who once set up Linux clusters for IBM but now oversees Windows Server marketing efforts. He says to expect further gains in the top 500 as Microsoft comes out with its next version of high-end Windows. That release, dubbed Windows HPC Server 2008 and now available in a feature-complete release candidate, is due for a final release this fall.
Hilf said it's this release that will really make Windows suitable for clusters with more than 1,000 separate servers. "We weren't ready to fully take on most of those," he said.
But although Top 500 results are nice, Hilf said perhaps more important is the potential for HPC Server 2008 to allow cluster computing to move further beyond government and university labs and into corporate departments where the massive computing power can be used for things like fraud detection.