The announcement of the beta, which is functionally complete, will be made during the keynote address by Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference here on Thursday morning.
Beta 1 of Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Solution is available for download via Microsoft Connect and will be available to attendees of PDC.
Microsoft plans just one product SKU, and the product is expected to be released to manufacturing in the first half of 2006, officials told eWEEK.
Microsoft officials first announced it was entering the HPC software market in June 2004 and said at that time that the product would be specifically designed for customers running scalable, parallel computing workloads in vertical market segments such as engineering, life sciences and finance.
Company officials such as CEO Steve Ballmer have also admitted that Linux is ahead in the area of high-performance computing, but have said Microsofts staff comes to work every day looking at how to offer customers an even better solution.
Muglia will also use his keynote to talk about how Excel has become a mission-critical application, and he will announce a new Excel Server, a source familiar with the contents of Muglias keynote told eWEEK.
In addition, Muglia will talk about how Microsoft is bringing HPC-class capabilities to business applications, the source said.
The Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition beta, which is feature-complete, will only undergo performance tuning between now and the Supercomputing Conference in Seattle in November. The early-deployment customer program will begin in January 2006, with general availability in the first half of the year, John Borozan, Microsoft senior product manager, told eWEEK.
Those ISVs who dominated the HPC space had a heritage of developing for the top of the HPC pyramid—the supercomputers—and are now looking to move down, while Microsoft, for its part, is starting from its legacy with infrastructure and workstations and is moving up.
"So, there is a meeting of priorities between us and the ISVs, and for them this is a tremendous opportunity as they probably already have a Windows workstation product and they understand the complexity associated with developing for multiple versions of Linux and they want their applications to be seen by a wider audience, which we can do for them," Borozan said.
Figures released by research firm IDC show that the technical computing server market is growing by leaps and bounds, gaining some 70 percent in 2004, with the percentage of users running clusters also growing rapidly, particularly at the workgroup and departmental level, Borozan said.
"That push of HPC clusters to the departmental and workgroup level is hitting a confluence of Microsoft products, with Windows being used at the workstation level for day-to-day computing tasks, while we are seeing enterprises increasingly asking for a technical computing infrastructure," he said.