Upcoming Windows HPC Version Gets Tooling from Microsoft
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft revealed more of its plans for the $5.5-billion high-performance-computing market at the Supercomputing 2004 tradeshow in Pittsburgh this week. The software giant confirmed that select business partners will gain access to a software development kit for the new version of Windows that Microsoft expects to ship next year, the name of which Microsoft has changed to Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition. The company also nixed any rumors of supporting Itanium with this first release.
The supercomputer market, which is dominated by Unix and Linux systems, is one of the healthiest segments of the server market right now, particularly at the lower end, where Linux clusters are enjoying such success. According to IDC, the market for traditional SMP-based, RISC/Unix supercomputers will shrink from about $3.5 billion in 2003 to $2.5 billion by 2008, while the cluster portion of the market, which is dominated by Linux-based X86 clusters, will grow from about $2.5 billion in 2003 to $5 billion by 2008. The overall HPC market is expected to grow from about $5.5 billion in 2003 to about $7.5 billion in 2008, IDC says.
Microsoft's plan is to tackle the cluster portion of the HPC market, where Linux and the X86 architecture are strong and gaining strength. If Microsoft can compete against Linux and become a force to be reckoned with in the HPC market, it will gain credibility in the eyes of the governments and universities that pay the big bucks for HPC systems. And since many government agencies are giving serious thought to replacing their Windows installations with Linux right now, and becoming a credible player on the HPC side could only help Microsoft.
At the Supercomputing conference, Microsoft demonstrated a software developer's kit for the Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, which formerly went by the name of Windows Server 2003, HPC Edition. The SDK will be made available to select partners later this month, a company spokesperson said.
Microsoft says Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, will support industry standards like message passing interface (MPI-2) and MPI-CH and remote direct memory access (RDMA) over Ethernet and Infiniband. It will also include an integrated job scheduler and cluster resource management, the company says. The final pricing and packaging for the product haven't been determined, but the ship date is a solid second half of 2005, according to Microsoft.
To the chagrin of its close partner Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft apparently won't be supporting the 64-bit Itanium 2 processors from Intel with the first release of Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, but it will be supported in a future edition. Itanium-powered servers are much more expensive than traditional X86-based systems, and Microsoft will be focusing on the lower-end 32-bit X86 and X86 systems that have been extended to support 64-bits with the first release.