Fastest-ever Windows HPC Cluster

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-06-18 Print this article Print

Running a beta of Windows HPC Server 2008, supercomputer hits 68.5 teraflops.

Microsoft fastest-yet homegrown supercomputer, running the U.S. company's new Windows HPC Server 2008, debuted in the top 25 of the world's top 500 fastest supercomputers, as tested and operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The supercomputer, built and maintained in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, ranked No. 23 in the world with a problem-solving performance of 68.5 teraflops. The announcement was made June 18 at the International Supercomputing conference in Dresden, Germany.

The NCSA used the beta version of Windows HPC Server 2008 to reach the 68.5-teraflop (68.5 trillion floating point operations per second) level. It runs on commodity hardware and reported 77.7 percent application efficiency on 9,472 cores, making this facility one of the most powerful supercomputing systems in the world and the fastest Windows cluster to date.

Most of the cores were made up of Intel Xeon quad-core chips. Storage for the system was about 6 terabytes.

"When we deployed Windows on our cluster, which has more than 1,000 nodes, we went from bare metal to running the Linpack benchmark programs in just four hours," said Robert Pennington, deputy director of the NCSA.

"The performance of Windows HPC Server 2008 has yielded efficiencies that are among the highest we've seen for this class of machine," Pennington said.

Microsoft announced that the final release candidate version of Windows HPC Server 2008 will be available for download during the last week of June.

Key features of Windows HPC Server 2008 include: high-speed networking; new, scalable cluster management tools; advanced failover capabilities; a service-oriented architecture job scheduler; and support for clustered file systems from some of Microsoft partners.

Microsoft, which got rich producing PC operating systems and applications, has been investing heavily in research and development in high-performance computing for about the last eight years.

In fact, the world's largest software company currently employs hundreds of engineers whose sole job it is to conceptualize and develop new products for the burgeoning HPC market, which research company IDC reports is the fast-growing sector in IT, at 19.5 percent per year.

According to IDC, during the next five years the HPC server market is projected to show healthy, steady growth. The researcher expects revenue for the total HPC server market to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2 percent to reach $18 billion by 2012.

Editor's note: This was updated to correct information about where the Windows supercomputer is located.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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