Microsoft Corp. released the first public beta of Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008, a server operating system and tools designed for the fast-growing high-performance computing (HPC) market. Microsoft also established the Parallel Computing Initiative, a program creating a set of common development tools across multicore desktops and clusters.
Windows HPC Server 2008, the successor to Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, is based on the Windows Server 2008 operating system and is designed to increase productivity, scalability and manageability. Windows HPC Server 2008 has been renamed to reflect its readiness to tackle the most challenging HPC workloads. Key features are new high-speed networking, highly efficient and scalable cluster management tools, advanced failover capabilities, a service oriented architecture (SOA) job scheduler, and support for partners’ clustered file systems. The beta is now available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/hpc; the final version will be generally available in the second half of 2008.
“With the new advancements, Windows HPC Server 2008 can allow customers to achieve the levels of scalability and performance of the most efficient clusters in the Top500 benchmark while making it dramatically more productive to deploy, utilize and integrate the advanced HPC clusters within their environment,” said Kyril Faenov, general manager of HPC at Microsoft. “By upgrading to Windows HPC Server 2008 on our 2,048-core production test cluster, we increased the LINPACK performance by 30 percent and were able to deploy and validate the cluster in less than two hours using out-of-the-box software. Expanding beyond traditional MPI-based HPC applications, Windows HPC Server 2008 enables support for high-throughput SOA applications with its advanced Web service routing capability and paves the way for bringing HPC capabilities to a broad range of enterprise applications.”
This efficiency is currently being demonstrated at the Holland Computing Center in the Peter Kiewit Institute at the University of Nebraska, one of the largest clusters in the world. The new 1,151-node Windows-based cluster is expected to enhance the curriculum and resource capabilities by providing compute cycles for a broad variety of government, research and industry uses.
“We see this as a tremendous opportunity to advance the research capabilities of the institute to meet the growing and emerging demands of the university community as well as our business partners,” said John Callahan, director of technical infrastructure for the Peter Kiewit Institute. “The scalability and demonstrated performance of the Windows platform has empowered us to provide a medium through which we can develop and train students in a new specialization on parallel computing.”
Adding to performance, Microsoft is also showcasing the ways cluster administrators, end users and developers can increase productivity with a common set of tools that span the desktop and cluster. Cluster administrators can save time with Microsoft System Center for application-level monitoring and rapid provisioning and SQL Server Reporting Services for capacity planning and auditing. End users can save time with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server for data collaboration and the Windows Workflow Foundation for automating processes across workgroups.
Mixed, dual-boot clusters can also improve cluster efficiency. Because dual-boot clusters flexibly serve both Linux and Windows users, they increase utilization rates by expanding their number of addressable users. Examples of customers deploying large mixed clusters include the University of Iowa, Cambridge University, 3M and Baker Hughes Inc. Leading technology partners that have announced mixed cluster support for Windows HPC Server 2008 include Altair Engineering Inc., Cluster Resources Inc. and Platform Computing. Clustered file system vendors that have announced support for Windows include Panasas Inc., Quantum Corp.’s StorNext, HP PolyServe, and Sanbolic Inc., and IBM Corp. has plans to support IBM GPFS on Windows.
Multicore and the Future of High-Performance Computing
Deepening its investment in developer productivity, Microsoft also created the Parallel Computing Initiative, which encompasses the vision, strategy and innovative developments in systems, runtimes, programming models, libraries, language extensions, and development tools across desktop and cluster. Designed to simplify and enable parallelism for a broad set of commercial applications in the multicore and cluster environments, this initiative adds to currently available standards-based tools such as Message Passing Interface (MPI) and OpenMP and native parallel debugger support in Visual Studio 2007. New technologies include the Parallel Extensions to the .NET Framework that will enable developers to express parallelism and improve efficiency and scalability of parallel applications. Over the next six months, Microsoft will ship customer technology previews of this technology.
Demonstrating how Microsoft’s investment into parallel programming is expanding the high-performance computing market, market leaders in the actuarial insurance software market, such as Milliman Inc. and Towers Perrin, have already announced native support for Windows HPC, introducing a large new segment of performance-sensitive customers to the benefits of parallelism.
These major investments from Microsoft in high-performance computing and parallel programming will enable a broader set of commercial application vendors as well as corporate and research programmers to embrace parallelism and take full advantage of the potential performance gains that are made available through adoption of multicore processors and server clusters.