Microsoft reaffirms HPC efforts

Microsoft has confirmed that it will officially enter the high-performance computing (HPC) arena next year with a version of Windows Server 2003 for the life sciences and parallel computing.

The move is not a surprise -- Microsoft has been targeting the HPC market, which has been dominated by Linux clusters, for some time.

In last week's announcement, Microsoft did not disclose any information about the pricing of the product, due out sometime in the second half of 2005.

According to published reports, the HPC version of Windows Server 2003 will support industry standards such as the Message Passing Interface (MPI), which is widely used in many computational cluster applications. Additionally, Microsoft will offer tools to help deploy and manage HPC clusters.

The news is less a formal announcement of a new product than a reaffirmation of Microsoft's intent to be involved in HPC systems -- something that Microsoft claims it has been doing all along.

For instance, Microsoft frequently touts Cornell University's Theory Center, which has a roughly 1,000-node cluster of Windows servers dedicated to interdisciplinary scientific computing endeavors. Microsoft also lists Rosetta Genomics and Perlegen Sciences as life science customers doing HPC on Windows servers. For the past year or so, Microsoft has been touting several of its technologies, including .NET, SQL Server, and Web services (in general) as key enablers to scientific computing and HPC.

To launch a dialog about how these technologies might be applied to the problems faced in many computationally intensive scientific computing applications, Microsoft, in collaboration with the Cornell Theory Center, hosted the first annual Microsoft Scientific Data Intensive Computing Workshop in Washington, in May. The workshop included researchers from a broad range of scientific computing, including those working in bioinformatics and computational biology.

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