Microsoft Stalls on Supercomputing Software

Microsoft has confirmed that it is delaying the launch of its Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition. The software giant initially expected to release a beta version this summer, but has postponed the launch until the first half of 2006 in order to respond to early customer feedback.

Microsoft spokesperson Kelly Perkins told TechNewsWorld that the company has heard customers and partners say the overall management and deployment of the solution is an important requirement for personal and department HPC. As a result, she said, Microsoft is placing additional focus in this area.

“Microsoft’s priority is to ensure that Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition provides customers with the highest levels of ease of use and manageability,” Perkins said. “Microsoft also has plans to refresh the Software Development Kit (SDK) this summer — it was originally distributed to select ISVs and OEMs in late 2004.”

Enterprise Supercomputers

Microsoft is betting enterprise customers’ increasing personal and departmental need for HPC solutions will move HPC from the traditional supercomputing centers found in academic and government sectors into the commercial markets, including engineering, life sciences and finance organizations.

Most of the public knowledge around HPC is on the extreme scale-up supercomputing systems, such as those found on the bi-annual Top500 supercomputing list. However, Perkins said Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition is designed to focus on personal and departmental segments of high-performance computing.

Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, is based on Windows Server 2003 and will support high performance hardware and industry standards such as MPI-2 and RDMA over Ethernet and Infiniband, as well as MPICH. Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, will also include an integrated job scheduler and cluster resource management.

Fitting Into a Unix World

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told TechNewsWorld that Microsoft been hoping to play in the HPC space for a long time. The problem, he said, is the company is fighting a culture that is fundamentally opposed to Windows.

“Microsoft is essentially trying to fit Windows into a Unix world,” Haff said. “The situation is not quite so dire for Microsoft in industry because a fair number of engineering workstations did migrate from Unix to Windows NT workstations.”

A Giant Underdog

Microsoft’s strategy to target the enterprise, then, only makes sense, according to analysts, or at least more sense than battling Linux in an area in which it has no incumbent advantage. Haff, however, remains skeptical.

“To the degree that Microsoft has any success in HPC, it’s probably going to in the enterprise,” he said. “With the growth and maturing of Linux in particular, Microsoft is having a hard enough fight in the places where it has a certain amount of historical presence and advantage.”

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