[Beowulf] Redmond is at it, again

Gerry Creager N5JXS gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Tue May 25 19:07:58 PDT 2004


 > Now Microsoft has begun its response, forming its High Performance 
 > team and planning a new OS version called Windows Server HPC Edition. 
 > Faenov is director of the effort, and Microsoft is hiring new managers,
 > programmers, testers and others.

Does "and others" mean users, too?


Eugen Leitl wrote:
> Yeah, think of all those power Excel hydro code users who're going to
> switch...
> http://zdnet.com.com/2102-1103_2-5219282.html?tag=printthis
> Microsoft creating Windows for supercomputers
> By Stephen Shankland and Ina Fried
> CNET News.com
> May 24, 2004, 12:30 PM PT
> URL: http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-5219282.html
> Microsoft has launched an effort to produce a version of Windows for
> high-performance computing, a move seen as a direct attack on a Linux
> stronghold.
> Bottom line:
> For now, Linux has the upper hand, owing to its affinity with Unix--the OS
> environment the high-performance crowd is most comfortable with--and the
> open-source model, which lets users turn directly to source code for answers
> to problems. But a Microsoft product would theoretically integrate better
> with Windows desktop machines, and if the company can serve up an impressive
> offering, Linux could be in for a tussle.
> High-performance computing once required massive, expensive, exotic machines
> from companies such as Cray, but the field is being remade by the arrival of
> clusters of low-end machines. While the trend could be considered an
> opportunity for Microsoft, which has long been the leading operating-system
> company, Linux has actually become the favored software used on these
> clusters.
> Now Microsoft has begun its response, forming its High Performance Computing
> team and planning a new OS version called Windows Server HPC Edition. Kyril
> Faenov is director of the effort, and Microsoft is hiring new managers,
> programmers, testers and others.
> The Redmond, Wash.-based software colossus has its work cut out in the
> market--and knows it.
> "Winning in this important space against entrenched Linux/open-source
> software competition requires creativity, innovation, speed of execution, and
> deep engagements with hardware, software and academic partners," reads a job
> posting for a program manager responsible for setting up the team's academic
> partnerships.
> In a recent interview, Bob Muglia, a Microsoft senior vice president who
> leads the development of Windows Server, said the company is interested in
> two particular areas: building high-performance computing clusters and
> harvesting the unused processing power of PCs.
> Although Microsoft is a comparative newcomer to the market, the company could
> bring several advantages:
> . Machines running Windows HPC Edition could seamlessly connect to desktop
> computers, providing instant power for someone such as a financial analyst
> performing calculations on an Excel spreadsheet, said David Lifka, chief
> technology officer for the Cornell Theory Center, Microsoft's premier
> high-performance computing partner.
> . Microsoft could create a specialized version of its widely praised
> programming tools, said Phil Papadopoulos, director of the grids and clusters
> program at the San Diego Supercomputing Center. "Windows could make that much
> easier with their integrated development environment. They have the manpower
> to do that piece of the puzzle."
> . Microsoft could also adapt its popular SQL Server database software to run
> on high-performance systems. The company has already said the next major
> version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon and due next year, will include
> better support for very large databases and for running on clustered systems.
> . And Microsoft could build software into its desktop version of Windows to
> harness the power of PCs, letting companies get more value from their
> computers. It's a technology that's applicable to tasks such as drug
> discovery and microchip design.
> The business imperative
> The high-performance effort doesn't mark the first time Microsoft has tried
> to head off Linux's progress. With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft released a
> lower-priced Web server edition, as Linux was growing popular for use on the
> machines that host Web sites.
> "The Windows Server group is really focused on countering Linux," said Rob
> Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "They've identified specific
> areas where Linux has the most traction."
> The HPC Edition is also an example of a Microsoft strategy to increase
> revenue by creating versions of Windows tailored for specific market
> segments--for example, Windows for tablet PCs, digital TV recorders and
> storage servers.
> "Another way for them to keep Windows sales moving is to roll out more of
> these editions," Helm said. "When you've got a product that you need to keep
> moving, one way to do it is to segment it. You introduce Tarter Control
> Windows Server and Sensitive Teeth Windows Server."
> High-performance computing is a lucrative market, with sales that increased
> 14 percent to $5.3 billion in 2003, according to IDC. And "bright clusters,"
> Linux servers that manufacturers know will be used in a cluster, had sales of
> $384 million in the fourth quarter.
> Beating the incumbent
> But for once, Microsoft is the newcomer, and Linux is the incumbent. Linux
> got its first foothold in academia and research labs, which already had
> expertise and software for the functionally similar Unix operating system.
> "The majority of people doing high-performance computing are a lot more
> comfortable and efficient inside a Unix environment," a category that
> includes Linux, the SDSC's Papadopoulos said. To convince people to invest
> the time and money to switch, Microsoft will have to offer something much
> better, he said.
> Linux, boosted by low-cost servers using processors from Intel and Advanced
> Micro Devices, now is used on prestigious machines. Thunder, a machine at the
> Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with 512 Linux servers running Red Hat
> Enterprise Linux, can perform more than 19 trillion calculations per second,
> second only to Japan's Earth Simulator.
> Dozens of machines in a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers run Linux,
> including five of the top 10. Only two on the list are identified as Windows
> machines.
> One reason Windows has been slow to catch on is that Unix and Linux were bred
> to be administered remotely, a necessary feature for managing a cluster with
> dozens or hundreds of computers.
> In Windows, "the notion of remote computing is significantly more difficult
> than in Unix," Papadopoulos said. "Because Windows was born out of the
> desktop, (it is) deeply ingrained in the Microsoft culture that you have
> somebody sitting in front of the machine to do work."
> Management is on Microsoft's agenda, though. The company is hiring one
> programmer to work on a "graphical and script-based user interface for
> efficient job and resource management across large clusters" and another to
> create "automated infrastructure to uncover performance and reliability
> problems with high performance, large-scale server applications."
> Linux adds another advantage: It's open-source software, meaning that anybody
> may see and modify its underlying source code. Most business customers aren't
> interested, but high-performance technical computing users need to extract
> every bit of performance and track down difficult bugs.
> "The nice thing is that because everything is open, if you have a problem,
> you can get at the root of the problem in terms of the software. That moves
> things along quite a bit faster," Papadopoulos said.
> That openness also makes it easier to accommodate the multitude of different
> technologies used in the high-performance market but not necessarily in the
> mainstream computing market, said Brian Stevens, vice president of operating
> system development for Linux seller Red Hat.
> Releasing a product
> Microsoft declined to share schedule information about the HPC Edition, but
> work is already under way.
> For example, a software developer kit for HPC Edition will include support
> for the Message Passing Interface, or MPI, widely used software to let
> computers in a cluster communicate with one another.
> The Cornell Theory Center's Lifka believes that an early software development
> kit for the HPC Edition could arrive as soon as this fall. The center is
> helping Microsoft develop and test the new software.
> Microsoft has several upcoming server releases, to which an HPC version of
> Windows could be added. Service Pack 1 of Windows Server 2003 is due later
> this year, followed by a more substantive upgrade, code-named R2, slated for
> 2005. The next major update to Windows, code-named Longhorn, is scheduled to
> arrive in server form in 2007.
> According to job postings, Microsoft is adapting MPI to Microsoft's .Net
> infrastructure. A key foundation of .Net is the C# programming language and
> the Common Language Runtime, or CLR, which lets C# programs run on a
> multitude of different systems.
> Lifka said the first phase will use a version of MPI written for a specific
> operating system and hardware type. The next foundation will be a version of
> MPI for the CLR that will let administrators run the same programs on a wide
> variety of different Windows machines--for example, those using Xeon, Opteron
> or Itanium processors.
> So far, programs written for the CLR and .Net aren't as fast as those written
> for a specific machine, "but we see constant improvement in that," Lifka
> added. Another area that needs work is security and easy patch installation,
> he said.
> Overall, Lifka is a fan of Windows for high-performance computing. The
> biggest reason for his enthusiasm is that it can dovetail easily with other
> versions of Windows in a company.
> And companies are more familiar with Windows than Linux, he added. "Moving to
> Windows has allowed us to have a greater number and quality of corporate
> relationships," Lifka said.
> Microsoft takes a long-term view of the challenge.
> Muglia often discusses technology moving from possible to practical to
> seamless, as it matures. High-performance computing on Windows today is in
> the possible stage, he said, but the goal is to make it practical.
> "That is something that will happen in the next few years," Muglia said.
> "There is an opportunity to make this better."
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Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at tamu.edu
Network Engineering -- AATLT, Texas A&M University	
Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020 FAX: 979.847.8578
Page: 979.228.0173
Office: 903A Eller Bldg, TAMU, College Station, TX 77843

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