Windows HPC Server 2008 Goes Mainstream

Redmond releases Windows HPC Server 2008, the data center-class operating system for high-performance computing applications.

Microsoft late last month released Windows HPC Server 2008, the data center-class operating system that promises to broaden the development and implementation of high-performance computing (HPC) applications on the Windows platform. Company officials launched the successor to Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 at the High Performance on Wall Street computing conference in New York.

Based on the core Windows Server 2008 OS, Microsoft's new HPC platform is regarded as a substantially improved upgrade for creating large server clusters. It could also be pivotal in bringing parallel computing on the Windows platform to a wider swath of applications that require support for real-time, low-latency computations. Microsoft says the new release is also much faster to deploy and easier to administer than Computer Cluster Server 2003.

"Microsoft has taken high-performance computing to the mainstream by making it part of our overall product strategy," said Bill Laing, corporate VP of Microsoft's Windows Server and Solutions division, speaking in a keynote address at the Wall Street conference.

Microsoft says HPC Server will facilitate the move to parallel programming using tools such as the new F# programming language -- which was released as a community technology preview (CTP) last month -- and for .NET Parallel Extensions to .NET Framework, also available as a CTP.

Pitching High Performance
Redmond is engaged in a 25-city launch event to target a broad swath of customer segments, including manufacturing, life sciences, public sector, and oil and gas, among others.

During the keynote presentation, Kyril Faenov, general manager of Microsoft's HPC engineering team, said developers can adopt HPC functionality without significant coding.

"From a developer standpoint, we made it very easy to be able to take the computations we have today running in the client, and add a bare minimum amount of code to be able to parallelize on the server," Faenov said.

Despite tightened integration with Visual Studio and .NET Framework, some developers might find HPC Server 2008 challenging, says John Powers, founder and CEO of Oakland-based Digipede Technologies LLC. "I think the programming model still needs additional improvements," Powers explains, citing lack of support for legacy code that doesn't utilize Windows Communication Foundation.

That might not be an issue, says Vince Mendillo, a director in Microsoft's Server and Tools Business Group. "Most of the customers we're seeing who are planning new deployments are writing new apps."

Much of the legacy code that developers may need to support is Linux-based, he says. Mendillo notes that support for Iron Ruby, Iron Python, Fortan and a built-in Posix-compliant shell should help many developers bridge to non-Windows environments.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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