June 9, 2006 3:00 AM PDT

Microsoft wraps up code for 'supercomputer' Windows

Microsoft has taken another step in its effort to bring Windows in the world of supercomputing, having finished development of its computer cluster operating system.

The software maker said Friday that it has finalized the code for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, which is designed to allow multiple servers to work together to handle high-performance computing (HPC) tasks. Such work, long handled by systems from SGI and Cray, has increasingly been tackled by Linux clusters, though Microsoft has been planning its entry for some time.

CNET News.com first reported in May 2004 that Microsoft was developing such a version of Windows. A month later, the company confirmed its plans.

"This is a long-term investment for Microsoft," Kyril Faenov, director of High Performance Computing at Microsoft, said in a telephone interview. "We think we can make an impact."

The company had originally hoped to have the software ready last fall, but opted to spend more time testing the product. Now Microsoft says it is ready, noting that some early customers, including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Cornell University's biology department are already using the software. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are among the computer makers that are planning to sell clusters using Microsoft's software.

Microsoft hopes that, though late to the cluster computing game, it can enter just as such tasks become more common and move beyond academic and research areas into large businesses.

"We think technical computing is an area that is undergoing a tremendous transition," Faenov said.

The Compute Cluster software--which is based on the Windows Server 2003 operating system, hence the somewhat outdated name--will be made available for evaluation next week. Customers, however, won't be able to buy the software until August, slightly behind the company's latest goal, which was to ship the software sometime in the first half of the year.

Basically, the company is hoping to do for the cluster market what it did in the server market. There, Microsoft bolstered Windows just in time to capitalize on the shift away from proprietary Unix servers, with the server unit having been a strong spot for the company's financial performance in recent years.

Microsoft is also pushing the idea of "personal supercomputing"--the idea that individual researchers, business analysts and engineers can benefit from harnessing the power of multiple computers. Hardware makers Ciara Technologies and Tyan Computer are among the companies aiming to sell such individual clusters.

The Compute Cluster software will sell for an estimated $469 per node, less than the company's standard server OS price. The cost of Windows Server varies based on the version of the operating system, but the standard edition with the ability to connect to five computers has a suggested price of $999.

"The price is less than standard Windows Server," Faenov said. "We got feedback that that is an attractive price."

The software is also among the first products from Microsoft that will run only on machines that have 64-bit processors, though it can still run 32-bit software. The next version of Exchange will also be 64-bit only, Microsoft has said.

Faenov said he is encouraged by the amount of HPC-related software already developed for Windows, including programs from MathWorks, Ansys and The BioTeam. Next, Faenov said he hopes to see Microsoft expand into the electronic design automation area, talking to folks like Mentor Graphics and Synopsys. He also sees the possibility for new areas, such as graphic design companies, to make clustered computing a part of their infrastructure.

"I would love to see media applications--Adobe Photoshop or InDesign--to be able to take advantage of clusters in every design shop out there," Faenov said.

See more CNET content tagged:
electronic design automation, supercomputing, high-performance computing, supercomputer, Microsoft Windows Server

38 comments

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Linux beats MS agiain
Linux has a clear advantage over windows in this segment as it is opensource. Now how can MS compete is beyond me. This is just another buggy MS product

tekthots.blogspot.com
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Linux beats MS agiain
Linux has a clear advantage over windows in this segment as it is opensource. Now how can MS compete is beyond me. This is just another buggy MS product

tekthots.blogspot.com
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please sign off immediately, SuperWindows is rebooting
Is there a big market for a "supercomputer" that has to be restarted
frequently?

Especially one that nearly impossible to fix, even by its creators,
when it goest south?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,19345228%" target="_newWindow">http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,19345228%</a>
5E15865%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please sign off immediately, SuperWindows is rebooting
Is there a big market for a "supercomputer" that has to be restarted
frequently?

Especially one that nearly impossible to fix, even by its creators,
when it goest south?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,19345228%" target="_newWindow">http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,19345228%</a>
5E15865%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why?
Why would MS bother? Sure, cluster computing is likely to move out of academic and high-tech commercial environments, but it's likely to do so slowly. It will never be a huge market. And MS is not likely to make the concessions necesary to compete in this market versus the incumbents, particularly Linux.

If you look at the feature set of MS cluster product, it still doesn't approximate the rich environment provided elsewhere. Perhaps they believe that markets not already familiar with cluster computing will be more ready to accept MS' products, but I suspect those companies would likely hire experienced people and use proven technology -- and that means not Microsoft.

This is a waste of money for MS that should be poured into QA for their other products.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re: Why?
"This is a waste of money for MS that should be poured into QA for their other products."

But if they did that, they would have to actually DO the QA.

:)
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Why?
Why would MS bother? Sure, cluster computing is likely to move out of academic and high-tech commercial environments, but it's likely to do so slowly. It will never be a huge market. And MS is not likely to make the concessions necesary to compete in this market versus the incumbents, particularly Linux.

If you look at the feature set of MS cluster product, it still doesn't approximate the rich environment provided elsewhere. Perhaps they believe that markets not already familiar with cluster computing will be more ready to accept MS' products, but I suspect those companies would likely hire experienced people and use proven technology -- and that means not Microsoft.

This is a waste of money for MS that should be poured into QA for their other products.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re: Why?
"This is a waste of money for MS that should be poured into QA for their other products."

But if they did that, they would have to actually DO the QA.

:)
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
x64 CBSOD
Woohoo! A 64 bit clustered blue screen of death!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
x64 CBSOD
Woohoo! A 64 bit clustered blue screen of death!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2003?
Development on Computer Cluster Server 2003 completed in 2006? I guess the supercomputing world doesn't care that it's 3 years late, so no need to create a new name to help hide that fact.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re:2003
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/default.mspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/default.mspx</a>

2003 Is a product line, this is just an update to an existing OS. You don't call Windows 98 SE "Windows 99" do you?

Though as with some of the other posters, I wonder how much headway they can really make in this market.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
2003?
Development on Computer Cluster Server 2003 completed in 2006? I guess the supercomputing world doesn't care that it's 3 years late, so no need to create a new name to help hide that fact.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re:2003
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/default.mspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/default.mspx</a>

2003 Is a product line, this is just an update to an existing OS. You don't call Windows 98 SE "Windows 99" do you?

Though as with some of the other posters, I wonder how much headway they can really make in this market.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
New Record for Microsoft
Microsft must be going for the world record of nowmany computers they can crash at a time. Befor they had to do it once at a time, Now they can crash several hunderd computers simultaniously with Cluster Windows.
Posted by startiger (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New Record for Microsoft
Microsft must be going for the world record of nowmany computers they can crash at a time. Befor they had to do it once at a time, Now they can crash several hunderd computers simultaniously with Cluster Windows.
Posted by startiger (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows on cluster computers?
Another for the "not getting it" file. Cluster computers don't need Windows on each and every computer in the cluster.

You only need the GUI on the cluster controller.

All the other computers should be running just the slave OS with a command line interface, since you'll rarely need to configure it outside the network.

Aside from licensing costs, another reason Linux and Unixes reign supreme over the cluster computing market is their modularity. The slaves in the cluster run little more than the kernel and processes required by the purpose. And these processes can be dropped in and out by the cluster controller.

Only on the controller is there a GUI, if at all.

If each computer in a cluster has to support the overhead of a GUI and a whole bunch of "built-into" Windows processes (windows media player and Internet Explorer, for example), the processing power sapped will mean more computers needed in the cluster, with corresponding penalties in terms of overhead and power consumption.


Here's an idea for Microsoft, as radical as it seems. Build a utility into Windows Server to control a Linux cluster.

Wait, you're already doing that in your Linux Lab. Perhaps you should consider marketing that instead?
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Assumptions
What makes you think MS's version of Windows for clusters includes the full GUI on every member of the cluster? Have you done *any* research on this or is this just an assumption?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Windows on cluster computers?
Another for the "not getting it" file. Cluster computers don't need Windows on each and every computer in the cluster.

You only need the GUI on the cluster controller.

All the other computers should be running just the slave OS with a command line interface, since you'll rarely need to configure it outside the network.

Aside from licensing costs, another reason Linux and Unixes reign supreme over the cluster computing market is their modularity. The slaves in the cluster run little more than the kernel and processes required by the purpose. And these processes can be dropped in and out by the cluster controller.

Only on the controller is there a GUI, if at all.

If each computer in a cluster has to support the overhead of a GUI and a whole bunch of "built-into" Windows processes (windows media player and Internet Explorer, for example), the processing power sapped will mean more computers needed in the cluster, with corresponding penalties in terms of overhead and power consumption.


Here's an idea for Microsoft, as radical as it seems. Build a utility into Windows Server to control a Linux cluster.

Wait, you're already doing that in your Linux Lab. Perhaps you should consider marketing that instead?
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Assumptions
What makes you think MS's version of Windows for clusters includes the full GUI on every member of the cluster? Have you done *any* research on this or is this just an assumption?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Apple Xserve
Apple's Xserve and Server operating system have had this
feature for the past two years.

It works great, even on small clusters and is great for video
rendering, etc.

DJO
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple Xserve
Apple's Xserve and Server operating system have had this
feature for the past two years.

It works great, even on small clusters and is great for video
rendering, etc.

DJO
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft supercomputer?!?
Obviously the author of this article has neglected to mention
Apple's stunning contribution to the High Performance
Computing arena. One wonders why.

With supercomputer installations at nationally known
institutions such as Virginia Tech (10th fasted computer in the
word), the US Naval Research Medical Center, University of
Pittsburgh Genetics Center, and the humongous 25+ teraflop
cluster that the US Army uses to test hypersonic flight, it's no
wonder why, once again, Apple's accomplishments are
minimized by the Microsoft crowd.

To see what is available NOW (versus vaporware from MS) go
here - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/xserve/cluster/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/xserve/cluster/</a>
Posted by machelpdesk (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
;-)
I think it's mostly 'cuz Macs are now slowed down to x86 speeds
;-)
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft supercomputer?!?
Obviously the author of this article has neglected to mention
Apple's stunning contribution to the High Performance
Computing arena. One wonders why.

With supercomputer installations at nationally known
institutions such as Virginia Tech (10th fasted computer in the
word), the US Naval Research Medical Center, University of
Pittsburgh Genetics Center, and the humongous 25+ teraflop
cluster that the US Army uses to test hypersonic flight, it's no
wonder why, once again, Apple's accomplishments are
minimized by the Microsoft crowd.

To see what is available NOW (versus vaporware from MS) go
here - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/xserve/cluster/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/xserve/cluster/</a>
Posted by machelpdesk (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
;-)
I think it's mostly 'cuz Macs are now slowed down to x86 speeds
;-)
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Agree
I tend to agree with your comments. Still, MS have money to invest i different areas and we're not the one to stop them other than with technical excellence.

It may even be useful for those looking to build an inexpensive cluster which still is able to run certain Windows apps.
Posted by Vackraste (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
linux is still free
A Linux cluster with Wine would probably run windows better but the real argument is simply:

cluster windows 600$ish per machine
Linux 0$ per machine

cluster windows using 70% of the cpu to move it's own mass and 30% of the machine to actually do something

linux using 70%+ of the cpu to do actual work.

We'll see though. Never underestimate the board of director's fear of the unknown. Everybody recognizes the Microsoft brand but only the IT managers realize how much better the other options are.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Agree
I tend to agree with your comments. Still, MS have money to invest i different areas and we're not the one to stop them other than with technical excellence.

It may even be useful for those looking to build an inexpensive cluster which still is able to run certain Windows apps.
Posted by Vackraste (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
linux is still free
A Linux cluster with Wine would probably run windows better but the real argument is simply:

cluster windows 600$ish per machine
Linux 0$ per machine

cluster windows using 70% of the cpu to move it's own mass and 30% of the machine to actually do something

linux using 70%+ of the cpu to do actual work.

We'll see though. Never underestimate the board of director's fear of the unknown. Everybody recognizes the Microsoft brand but only the IT managers realize how much better the other options are.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
"Cluster-F"
I think that the name "Cluster-F" would be especially fitting for
Micro$oft's cluster software!
Posted by mono2STEREO (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Cluster-F"
I think that the name "Cluster-F" would be especially fitting for
Micro$oft's cluster software!
Posted by mono2STEREO (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not another
Another product to throw at the public, how many flaws is this one going to have. Window XP etc. is still as unstable as allout.
Posted by erniehatt (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not another
Another product to throw at the public, how many flaws is this one going to have. Window XP etc. is still as unstable as allout.
Posted by erniehatt (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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