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.
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.
"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.