Microsoft releases mainstream cluster software to production

Redmond (WA) - Developed to increase Microsoft's credibility in the high-performance computing (HPC) space and to take advantage of the rapidly growing x86-based server market, Microsoft today released its first server software enabling cluster computing to manufacturing.

The manufacturer claims that the new product, named Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 will broaden the availability from the very high-end of server computing today to a more mainstream-focused environment in the future. Instead of installing relatively complex clusters based for example on Linux or other Unix derivates, Microsoft is aiming to gain market share by extending Windows' value proposition of ease of use into high-end computing.

A typical Windows cluster network will consist of client computers, a range of common servers such as active directory, application servers, MOM servers and mail servers - as well as a network of computing nodes as processing engines. The Compute Cluster Server will work only on x86-based machines, which does not only allow Microsoft to extend its existing architectures with fairly little effort into a new market, but also enables customers to build a cluster network with less cash and human resources than in the past. According to the company, the setup of a Windows-based cluster is simplified by a range of wizards that require "minimal" user input. For example, Wizards are available to install the network environment, remote installation services node management and cluster security.

"Microsoft's entrance into high-performance computing comes at a time when customers are presented with powerful computing economics in the forms of multicore processors, standards-based, high-speed interconnects and ubiquitous x64 (64-bit x86 architecture) computers," Microsoft said in a prepared statement. "Customer 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."

How mainstream the Compute Cluster Server 2003 actually can go, is unclear right now and will remain to be seen in the future. Participants in the beta program of the software were organizations that one would typically expect to be a HPC customer - such as companies and institutes that are involved in oil and gas reservoir simulation and seismic processing, research labs working on simulations of enzyme catalysis and protein folding, as well as automotive vehicle design.

A trial version of the software is available for download from Microsoft's website.

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