Microsoft set to ship Windows for HPC

Windows Compute Cluster Server to compete against Unix, Linux in compute-intensive environments

Microsoft has finished work on a version of Windows for high-performance computing (HPC), it announced Friday.

With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, which is being released to manufacturing this week, Microsoft aims to compete against Unix and Linux to run server clusters in compute-intensive environments, such as those running multiple simultaneous transactions or computations involving large amounts of data.

Microsoft first announced plans to offer a server OS for HPC in May 2004. Initially the company said Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 would be made available late last year, but it then pushed back the release date until the first half of 2006. With its release to manufacturing Friday, the OS should reach customers by August, said John Borozan, group product manager for the Windows Server Division at Microsoft.

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, will discuss the new OS at Microsoft's Tech-Ed 2006 user conference next week in Boston. The company will provide evaluation versions of the OS to conference attendees.

Borozan said clusters of servers that deliver high-performance computing "tend to be fairly scarce resources" because of the high cost and complexity of installing and maintaining them. With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Microsoft hopes in the next five years to give "every researcher and scientist access to supercomputing power from their desk," he said.

The company also is looking to score new Windows Server business in a market dominated by Unix, an effort analysts have said is an uphill battle. Microsoft has in the last several years watched Linux make headway in the low end of the server market, where Windows has traditionally had its most success.

Microsoft is charging a one-time licensing fee of $496 per node, with one node representing four processor cores, for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Borozan said. The pricing includes both the OS and Microsoft Compute Cluster Pack, a combination of interfaces, utilities and management infrastructure.

Early-adopter customers of the OS have run hundreds of nodes on the software, but Borozan said he expects most customers to run between four and 64 nodes on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.

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