Microsoft, Novell Report HPC Pickup

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-06-01

Microsoft and Novell have reported an increase in the number of companies seeking their high-performance computing interoperability offering, which deploys workload management across both Windows HPC Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and allows IT managers to balance server workloads by running specific applications on either Windows or Linux platforms. HPC uses either supercomputers or computing clusters to expedite the crunching of large amounts of data. 

Additionally, Microsoft and Novell reported having found a new HPC client base in a variety of economic sectors, "such as the financial, health care, higher education and technology sectors," Microsoft said June 1. While "businesses looking for ways to streamline infrastructure management"-and with a need for lower-cost processing of massive amounts of data-would presumably always be in the market for such an offering, the increase in interest also hints that business IT spending could again be on the rise following the global recession.

Microsoft has seen a slowed rate of business adoption for other products, including Windows 7, as enterprises, small and midsize businesses wrestle with the question of how much to allocate to IT budgets. However, a pickup in the HPC market could be indicative of real economic need.

"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, said in a statement. "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. These solutions, coupled with Novell's proven technical support programs, make it easier than ever for our customers to have confidence that their existing infrastructure investments will serve them well into the future."

The Microsoft-Novell partnership centers on the Microsoft and Novell joint Interoperability Lab in Cambridge, Mass., where engineers have been developing technology to serve "a mixed-source operational environment."

Microsoft has focused increasingly on taking HPC mainstream. In September 2008, the company released its Windows HPC Server 2008 to manufacturing, again hoping to appeal to the financial sector and other market segments with similar needs.

At the time, Microsoft also tried to cast itself as the underdog. In a Sept. 22, 2008, post on the Windows Server Division WebLog, Ryan Waite, Microsoft's product unit manager for HPC, wrote, "Yes, there are a lot of skeptics. The HPC industry uses mostly Linux or Unix servers. To even suggest Windows could be successful in HPC is blasphemy."

In that spirit, according to Waite, Microsoft started speaking to customers, "especially customers who didn't use Windows," and observing how HPC assets were typically used within an enterprise. "In the process we ate a lot of humble pie while learning how people really use their HPC servers: job schedulers, deployment tools, cluster administration tools, compilers, debuggers and MPI stacks."

The unveiling of Windows HPC Server 2008 took place just as the economic slide steepened, forcing businesses to cut back on spending on many high-level IT projects. But that trend could be reversing.

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