Microsoft announces Windows HPC Server 2008
The new product, which replaces Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, is based on Windows Server 2008, which in turn is based on the core technology of Vista SP1 – but unlike Vista, Server 2008 has been well received for its performance and stability. HPC Server 2008 is 64-bit and adds cluster-computing features like MPI-2 and OpenMP.
Although Windows dominates business computing, it is not as strong in scientific and mathematical research, and Microsoft badly wants to break into this market. Many researchers now build cluster systems from large numbers of identical commodity x86 machines, but these systems generally run some form of Unix. This is most often Linux or another free Unix-like OS, as with dozens to hundreds or even thousands of nodes each running their own copy of the OS, licence costs of commercial OSs quickly mount and can become a problem for cash-strapped academic institutions.
Microsoft hopes to tempt such users with HPC Server 2008's family resemblance to desktop Windows and its familiar and management techniques and development tools such as Visual Studio 2008. To tempt Unix users and coders in scientific programming languages, there is a built-in POSIX shell, support for IronPython, IronRuby and Fortran. Microsoft is also developing new tools such as the F# programming language and .NET Parallel Extensions.
HPC Server 2008 will also be offered bundled with ready-made cluster machines such as Cray's new deskside mini-supercomputer, the CX-1.