Supercomputers: Windows New Best Friend

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-11-15 Print this article Print

Redmond targets performance, hardware management and data migration in the second release candidate of its Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. Bill Gates will detail Microsoft's growing high-performance research investments.

Microsoft Corp. chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates will use his keynote address at the Supercomputing show, being held in Seattle this week, to announce the second beta for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, a 64-bit operating system for industry-standard x64 processors. The first, more limited beta, was announced at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in September. "We expect our customers to start pre-production deployment evaluations of the product with this beta," Kyril Faenov, Microsofts director for High Performance Computing, told eWEEK, adding that the team is not planning for a third beta, and a release candidate will be next.
Asked what feedback Microsoft has received from the developers who tested beta one, Faenov said it had become clear just how important it is to provide them with diagnostic tools.
"To a large degree, it is not as much the software challenges but the hardware challenges that come into play when some cluster configurations are deployed. "So diagnostics become really important, and we have done some good thinking and made some improvements in that area. There was also a lot of focus during beta two development on optimizing the performance," he said. It was also important for ISVs to be able to rapidly migrate their code, and Microsoft will be showcasing about 19 different applications, such as a car crash simulation guide, a weather modeling guide, as well as a demonstration of the BioTeams iNquiry software—which includes 160 open source Bio applications—on a Windows CCS cluster at its booth at the Supercomputing show this week, Faenov said. "These companies were all able to move to Windows 64-bit if they were not already there, pick up our FDI and just run with it, and that has been very encouraging," he said, adding that the product is still on track to ship in the first half of 2006. Asked what its strategy is towards the Linux and open-source community, given its dominance in the HPC field and the fact that Microsoft is including the Message Passing Interface—a library specification for message passing proposed as a standard by a broad-based committee of vendors, implementers and users—in the product, Faenov said Microsoft had no such strategy per se. "Our strategy is to deliver the best value and help grow the market, and we are making very pragmatic choices based on specific requirements we hear partners or customers want. MPI was an example of this and if there are other places where this makes sense for us, our customers and/or partners, well look at them," he said. Click here to read more about open-source code finding its way into the product. All of the major original equipment manufacturers, like IBM, HP, Dell, NEC; those developing more personal clusters, like Orion Multisystems; as well as all the major interconnect vendors, have also announced support for the product, Faenov said. Microsoft will release a single 64-bit only version of Compute Cluster Server 2003, which would also run on all the hardware platforms supported by Windows Server 2003 SP1, on which it is based. To read more about Windows Server 2003 SP1, click here. "We are going to work with our hardware partners to tailor the systems to particular market scenarios and then to do benchmarks and evidence generation for key applications," he said. Next Page: Microsofts milestone.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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