Microsofts Utility Computing Placeholder

Opinion: Microsoft's entry into utility computing, called Windows 2003 High Performance Computing Edition, is on its way. But don't hold your breath, David Chernicoff says.

The concept of utility computing conjures up images of rack after rack of inexpensive computers—interchangeable commodity items where no one computer is more important than another. In general, this vision does not include thoughts of Microsoft software, but rather of free versions of Unix and Linux operating systems.

As you might imagine, Microsoft is loathe to give up on any potentially lucrative market segment, so it has been giving research utility computing capabilities to academic institutions with free or low-cost Windows Server licenses. But its clear that any potential profits would come from the business marketplace, not the academic world.

To establish a position in this market, Microsoft has taken a somewhat different tack than the Unix and Linux players. It has relabeled the market segment that it wishes to dominate as "high-performance computing," and its planning on taking on the large-scale mainframe and supercomputer applications now running on Unix with a special version of Windows Server called Windows Server 2003, High Performance Computing Edition.

Dont hold your breath waiting, though. The best guess is that Windows 2003 Server, HPC Edition will ship in mid-2005, and as with any Microsoft product that doesnt have a confirmed ship date, that schedule is flexible, especially given the recent announcements that the new Windows File System would not be ready in time to ship with Windows Longhorn.

So, it seems likely that the HPC version of Windows Server wont ship until WFS is available and certified for use in the exceedingly demanding HPC environment.

This lack of product hasnt stopped Microsoft from releasing a 200-plus-page migration guide designed to walk administrators of large-scale Unix applications through the process of moving to Windows Server.

This solutions guide includes detailed information on configuring four types of high-performance computing environments using Windows Servers: symmetric multiprocessing, massively parallel processing, network of workstation and Web server load-balancing systems.

The guide isnt a hard-core technical document. Rather, it uses a soup-to-nuts approach to take the reader from the conceptualization of the project through deployment and operations of a Microsoft high-performance computing environment. The information in the guide is also suitable for building HPC solution from scratch that dont involve a Unix migration.

Next Page: Microsoft raises utility bills.