Ah, citizen journalism at its finest.
Shortly after complaining about some information gaps in Microsoft's new clustering product press release, I received an extensive email from Patrick O'Rourke, Lead Product Manager of the Windows Server Division. I'd like to think that immediately after reading my blog [which he does religiously every day] Bill Gates picked up the phone and called Patrick to have him respond.
Although I suspect the actual chain of events was much less dramatic, Patrick produced some very good and very complete answers to my questions. Given the depth of his responses, I will include them in a series of posts as opposed to one long one. Kudos to Microsoft for such a quick and complete response (a lot of folks in the Grid community I suspect will find the elaborations helpful).
(my first gripe on yesterday's blog)
1) It sounds like this announcement finally brings Microsoft up to speed with where the open source community has been for nearly a decade now ... the ability to group machines in a cluster to solve existing problems with greater speed. Is there any sort of new clustering innovation here that I missed?
[O'Rourke / Microsoft Response]:
Our goal here is to expand HPC beyond traditional supercomputing centers toward departments and divisions in commercial industry and the public sector. One way we're doing that is by delivering an HPC platform that is simple to deploy, operate, and integrate with existing infrastructure and tools. Our innovation is around the simplified deployment, operation and integration experience. [i]nteroperability with existing infrastructure was the design focus for v1. So customers can use Microsoft's MPI or job scheduler, or use an existing MPI or job scheduler. And customers can use remote installation services (RIS) for unattended compute node installation.
This goal is consistent with what some customers have said:
"Adopting Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 was a natural step for us since we use SQL Server for our database needs and Windows servers for hosting our Web interfaces," said Jaroslaw Pillardy, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Computational Biology Service Unit. "In addition to serving massively parallel applications, I've found that Windows Compute Cluster Server is a convenient tool for serving the computational needs of many small projects, where installing the software, updating databases and managing other such tasks are much easier than on a set of separate computers."
"We're committed to developing a world-class drug discovery platform here at the institute, and an important step in doing so is the need to dock drug candidates against proteins for in-depth analysis," said Matt Wortman, Ph.D. and director of computational biology and IT at the Genome Research Institute, University of Cincinnati. "This application is appropriate for parallelization, which has traditionally represented a complex and costly IT project. However, now with Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, we're able
to leverage our existing Microsoft infrastructure and skills to reduce costs and improve security via identity management. And because Windows has broad support from application vendors, we're able to partner with BioTeam to quickly build and deploy the drug discovery application."
And you may be interested to know that in 1997 the folks from NCSA deployed the first Windows cluster on NT4. Microsoft began working on Windows-based HPC projects back in 2000, and Microsoft Research began collaboration with several industries, including astronomy (result was Sky Server and the Worldwide Telescope). We've also been working with the Cornell Theory Center for several years.
There are also some interesting tidbits about the Windows Compute Cluster Server here.
One other bit of information that I'll add to Patrick's commentary is that Microsoft Research was indeed one of the original industry supporters of the Globus Toolkit, so in some respect they have a connection to the past decade of work in the open source community.
I'll be in touch with the rest of his responses in subsequent entries throughout the week.