Microsoft Raises Utility Bills
But Microsofts entry into the utility computing market doesnt face as much of a technical hurdle as it does a financial one. The current users of large-scale utility or grid-computing environments primarily comprise academic institutions and research organizations. The cost of licensing Windows on dozens or hundreds of nodes would be prohibitive, so Microsoft will need to come up with a pricing model that reflects the clustered nature of this computing model. But the alternate answer to the low-cost model that Linux brings to this market is to target industries that are not price-sensitive, such as the financial services market, where the value of the results is significantly greater than the cost of the computing environment. Convincing these businesses that Windows Server HPC will be a viable and cost-effective alternative will be the goal of Microsoft in building its HPC business model. It would seem that Microsoft is still in the early stages of its HPC strategy, despite its Windows Server 2003 announcements. While a check of the Windows Server HPC home page shows quite a bit of linked information, much of itsuch as the HPC FAQlinks back to information that was developed and released for Windows 2000 Server.That FAQ, for example, is actually dated January 7, 2001, which is not something that gives you a lot of confidence that there is a great deal of activity at Microsoft focused on this topic.Despite the pricing issues, Microsoft does have a lot to offer in the HPC world. Managing large-scale projects is always an issue, and the Microsoft platforms do excel at providing a high degree of ease of use in their management tools. Scalability is well-established, with definite metrics available that can show exactly what additional performance gains can be had in a given situation. The Windows Server platform is also suitable in both scale-up and scale-out scenarios, with many cases offering the ability to combine both scale-up and scale-out configurations to solve a single problems set, all while maintaining the same management interface, regardless of the technical details of the hardware/software implementation. The work Microsoft has been doing to simplify software deployment for Windows Server also will pay dividends in the HPC environment, where maintaining and deploying software across hundreds of computers is a daily part of the operation. So, while it looks like Microsoft is playing catch-up in the utility computing marketplace, it already has many of the tools, platforms and applications that can make it a viable contender. Whether the company will be able to convince the buyer that it is a better choice remains to be seen. Check out eWEEK.coms Utility Computing Center for the latest utility computing news, reviews and analysis.