Microsoft is offering supercomputing power at a lower cost that should bring the technology within reach of more organisations with the release of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 (CCS).
The server application enables organisations to carry out large numbers of calculations quickly on clusters of servers – termed high-performance computing (HPC).
The software runs on an average of four x86-based servers, with 32-bit or 64-bit Intel or AMD processors, bringing the cost of HPC down to normal server computing levels, according to Microsoft.
CCS integrates with Microsoft’s Active Directory and uses Microsoft Management Console 3.0 to manage the clusters. It also uses Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 for parallel job development and debugging.
The job scheduler has both a command-line and graphical interface, and allows users to create, submit and monitor computing jobs in the cluster.
CCS is Microsoft’s first product in the HPC arena, which is dominated by Linux and Unix server clusters.
According to Microsoft, CCS has a familiar Windows interface, is easy to deploy and operate, and integrates with existing Microsoft infrastructures.
An evaluation version of the product is available now, and the full version of the software is due for release in August.
HPC is used in engineering, medical research and exploration, but it has traditionally been expensive and difficult to use. The CCS product is designed to give these fields and others a more mainstream way to solve computational problems, said Microsoft.
Zane Adams, director of Windows Server marketing at Microsoft, said CCS would enable more businesses to use HPC to gain efficiencies. “Enterprise resource planning systems could use this at the back end,” he said.
Early adopters of CCS have tested the software on a range of applications, including vehicle design and safety improvements, oil and gas reservoir simulation, and protein folding. These early adopters include BAE Systems, Southampton University and Queen’s University Belfast.
According to David Roberts, chairman of the Corporate IT Forum, 10 of the blue-chip IT user group’s member companies are already using supercomputing, including several in the financial sector and utility companies. “This offering gives them more opportunities,” he said.
Jamil Appa, BAE Systems’ group team leader, technology and engineering services, said, “The potential gains in business efficiencies will make CCS worthwhile, but it is not going to be obvious to most businesses how they should use HPC.”