Microsoft released its Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 earlier this week. The HPC (high-performance computing) server is designed to help businesses, government and academia leverage capabilities for powerful analysis.
Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 is interoperable with other Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint, Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Office and Active Directory. HPC Services for Excel 2010 in Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 supposedly reduces the calculation time for large and complex spreadsheets, while the platform supports hundreds of technical computing applications. Microsoft also claims that Windows HPC Server "is 32 percent to 51 percent less expensive than Linux-based HPC systems over five years."
Microsoft's broader technical computing initiative involves developing applications for parallel computing platforms on client systems, server clusters and the cloud. Future updates to the Windows HPC Server will allow clients to manage HPC nodes in Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud-development platform, from within on-premises server clusters.
"We're now at the point where parallel computing-many computers working together to solve complex problems-is expanding out of HPC and into the mainstream," Bill Hilf, general manager of Microsoft's Technical Computing division, wrote in a Sept. 20 posting on The Official Microsoft Blog. "Multicore PCs and cloud data centers offering tens of thousands of processors create opportunities for a much broader set of people to harness parallel systems, in order to ask tougher questions, gain deeper insights and solve bigger challenges."
Hilf cites climatology, genetics and mechanical engineering as areas particularly receptive to the powers of parallel systems. For example, "an engineer designing a new engine for the next generation of commercial aircraft could tap into 10,000 processing cores at the push of a button, in order to repeatedly simulate how the airflow through that engine affects its performance, how it dissipates heat."
In June, Microsoft and Novell reported an increase in the number of companies seeking their HPC interoperability offering, which deploys workload management across both Windows HPC Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The offering allows IT managers to balance server workloads by running specific applications on either Windows or Linux platforms.
"Companies around the world are realizing the benefits of our joint interoperable cross-platform technical solutions," Ted MacLean, general manager for Strategic Partnerships and Licensing at Microsoft, wrote in a statement at the time. "The fact that we're able to address a real need in the HPC market is evidenced by the number of licenses we've issued."
Microsoft originally released Windows HPC Server 2008 to manufacturing in September 2008, hoping to appeal to the financial sector and market segments with similarly large data-crunching needs. With the release, the company tried to cast itself as the underdog in an arena it claimed was dominated by Linux or Unix servers.