Microsoft has launched its flagship software for high-performance computing, Windows HPC Server 2008.
This is ‘another step in our vision to drive HPC mainstream,’ according to Bill Laing, corporate vice president of the Windows Server and Solutions group at Microsoft. With the launch of Windows HPC Server 2008, Microsoft is intent on delivering HPC to top-tier European businesses and institutions in the automotive, oil and gas, financial services, and academic sectors, taking on some of the biggest clusters and demonstrating the broad ecosystem of the platform. In addition, Microsoft has partnerships with major hardware suppliers, such as Advanced Micro Devices, Cray, Dell and HP. Demand for HPC is being driven by a combination of increased performance in processors per compute node, low acquisition price per node, and the overall price and performance of compute clusters. These trends are driving new customers to adopt HPC to replace or supplement live, physical experiments with computer-simulated modelling, tests and analysis.
Access to affordable high performance computing is changing the way that science and engineering are carried out, according to Chris Phillips, general manager of the Windows Server and Solutions group at Microsoft. Scientists and engineers are moving from the ‘computational science’ of the past few decades, where they used computers to simulate complex phenomena, he said, towards ‘e-Science’ or ‘Data-centric’ science which promises to unify theory, experiment, and simulation but which will require data exploration and data mining techniques to quarry the massive data sets that are being generated. The trend will bring a convergence between conventional business/commercial computing and high performance computing and Microsoft believes that its family of server software will provide the tools to bridge the gap.
Part of Microsoft’s purpose appears to be to make scientific and engineering computing much more like conventional business and commercial computing – to bring HPC within the ambit of a company’s existing data centre. ‘At present, you need to be highly technical to take advantage of high performance computing,’ Mr Phillips said, ‘but there are people across the enterprise who want to use HPC. HPC is a handcrafted business. For us that’s absurd, you can’t run a business that way. You need to have standardised systems. This has been an eclectic part of the computing world. We’re going to make it mainstream.’
He pointed out that Windows HPC Server 2008 has management of the hardware built in and thus makes the transition to HPC easy for Data Centre managers, reducing its complexity. Development of parallel code, and building natural applications, is easy, due to its service-oriented architecture, he continued. Microsoft has also partnered with many independent software vendors – including Ansys, The MathWorks, Wolfram, and Synopsys -- to produce application software that will run on HPC Server 2008.