MS-Google face-off: This time in distributed computing

MS-Google face-off: This time in distributed computing

Summary: At this week’s open house for press and analysts, Microsoft Research (MSR) will be showing off a multitude of projects, including a (so far) little-publicized distributed-computing platform under development that is code-named “Dryad.” Dryad is one of a number of large-scale-computing efforts in which Microsoft researchers are engaged.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Google
2

At this week’s open house for press and analysts, Microsoft Research (MSR) will be showing off a multitude of projects, including a (so far) little-publicized distributed-computing platform under development that is code-named “Dryad.”

Dryad is one of a number of large-scale-computing efforts in which Microsoft researchers are engaged. From early accounts, it sounds as if Dryad is Microsoft’s competitor to Google Lab’s MapReduce technology.

According to Google’s researchers, "MapReduce is a programming model and an associated implementation for processing and generating large data sets”

In a New York Times piece on Google’s work to build out its hardware infrastructure, published in early July, there was a rather cryptic mention of Dryad. When asked for a response to Google’s plans, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told The Times that Microsoft was building its own parallel-processing software designed to support increasingly sprawling server farms.

“They (Google) did MapReduce; we have this thing called Dryad that's better,” Gates said.

Microsoft research labs all over the world are engaged in projects in the distributed- computing space, said MSR Senior Vice President Rick Rashid (during a phone interview yesterday).

In the Bay Area, MSR is supporting a number of large-scale computing teams. Researchers in the Cambridge UK lab are working on large-scale networking projects. (In fact, Rashid said, some of the P2P technology that will be integrated in Windows Vista came out of that particular effort.) In Beijing, MSR researchers are engaged in work around fault tolerance, and in Bangalore, large-scale-systems analysis is a focal point, he said.

The Dryad team, based in Mountain View, Calif., is developing software that is designed to provide operating-system-level abstractions for large clusters (thousands) of PCs in a data center.

"Converting a sequential and/or single-machine program into a form in which it can be executed in a concurrent, potentially distributed environment is known to be hard…. The Dryad project is an attempt to generalize this approach to provide a programming model which scales from future single-machine many-core PCs up to large-scale data-centers," explains Microsoft on the Dryad Web site.

The Dryad team is focusing initially on a few key areas: Composability (decomposing a program skeleton into a set of simple operating classes); fault tolerance; and applicability (discovering paradigms best suited for distributed programming, especially in computer vision, speech and machine learning). T

he Dryad researchers are working hand-in-hand with the MSN/Windows Live product groups, Rashid said, as a result of those groups’ need for ever-increasing scalability and bandwidth.

There’s not a lot more public info on Dryad, at this point. “We are still in the early stages of evaluating our design and its implementation,” note the Dryad researchers on their Web site.

Topic: Google

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

2 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Yeesh...

    ...you know things about the company I work at that I didn't know. Didn't know the Dryad team was based out of Mountain View (my official home office, though I live in LA).
    John Carroll
  • Microsoft Dryad

    Google has left a relatively clear roadmap of the technical hurdles it cleared between 2008 and 2003. Microsoft, like other companies, is using this "trail" to improve the performance of its network-centric services. The question is, "When will Microsoft's solutions be available?" With the consumer thrust, the Live.com "reinvention", and the disappointing deployment of its next-generation products, Microsoft has a number of jobs to do. Catching up with Google circa 2003 is not likely to do much to close the gap quickly. There's BigTable (Google's alternative to SQLServer, Oracle, and DB2), Boxwood, Queue, and little appreciated Google code libraries that help increase programmer efficiency. Let's hope Microsoft gets its Dryad out the door quickly. We need more innovation and competition. PR and chatter are easy to do. Getting commodity drives to read at 2000 megabytes per second or more is a bit more challenging.
    seaky2000@...