[Beowulf] Microsoft is coming to get ya

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Oct 20 10:34:39 PDT 2005

At 06:34 AM 10/20/2005, Leif Nixon wrote:
>According to <http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/index.php?p=2042>, Steve
>Ballmer said yesterday:
>     I think we have four big opportunities to take business from Linux
>     and we will. And again, why would we take it. Because people will
>     take a look at the tools and the technologies we put in the
>     marketplace and decide that they deliver better results at a lower
>     cost. What's the first? High performance clustering. High
>     performance clusters is a thing that has been a Linux stronghold.
>     It's about 20 percent of all Linux systems. We're coming out with
>     a compute cluster edition of Windows Server. We're coming out with
>     new development tools that help people write applications that
>     make sense in that kind of scientific computing environment.
>And it's true, they do seem to be gathering their strength. At least
>in Europe, Microsoft has quietly been recruiting prominent HPC and
>grid computing people for a while.
>This is going to be interesting, I think.

My wife was at that talk yesterday (it was at the Gartner ITExpo, which is 
aimed at BUSINESS.. Her comment is along the following lines (I'm grossly 
paraphrasing here):
Steve's a very energetic guy, always bouncing around, and very enthusiastic 
about what he's talking about.  Bear that in mind when listening to him.
He acknowledged the recent "issues" with the Longhorn/Vista development 
(while not specificallly mentioning the WinFS/rewrite/invocations of Dave 
And here's the part my wife found particularly amusing/entertaining:  When 
referring to the rollout of Vista.. I'm sure you all (referring to the IT 
movers and shakers in the audience) will install Vista at home and use it 
for a while before you're comfortable doing it in your business 
environment.  [This is because business folk HATE changing OSes.. all that 
investment in configuration mangement and getting things working inevitably 
breaks.  It was like pulling teeth to get businesses to give up Win95 and 
then NT4]

Bear in mind that Vista will also have lots of changes in the desktop view 
of the world (easier sharing, a new Sleep mode, auxiliary display support, 
"Windows Connect Now!", Parental controls etc.) most of which are 
irrelevant to clusters, but are very relevant to the consumer and to 
corporations rolling out thousands of desktop PCs.

Vista also will include such things as "full volume encryption" and 
"Windows Rights Management Client". I suspect that the FVE will rely on the 
Trusted Platform hardware and Palladium, which might have implications for 
replicating software across a cluster.  I would also imagine that the 
encryption will inevitably incur some processor time overhead.  In order to 
provide their digital rights management customers with assurances that it's 
reasonably hack-resistant, they're not going to make it easy to tinker with 
low level stuff (like the registry or OS related functionality).  Corporate 
IT folks also kind of like this stuff, because it makes it harder for the 
sophisticated end user to foul up the coporate IT configuration management 

So.. my take on this, with respect to clusters, is that MS will notionally 
provide a capability (Yeah, we got that covered), but I don't know that 
you'll see much WinCluster specific software in the next couple years.  MS' 
bread and butter is High availability server farm kinds of things: massive 
arrays running SQLServer or IIS or some whiz-bang web-services enabling 
backend, for instance.

The digital rights management and media features that are a big part of 
Vista, i.e. all those folks running XPMedia edition or their WinPod or 
Vista Home Edition need to get their content from somewhere, and I'm sure 
that "somewhere" is intended to be something running MS Vista as a server farm

>Leif Nixon                       -            Systems expert
>National Supercomputer Centre    -      Linkoping University

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875

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