HP and Microsoft eye supercomputer market

As the International Supercomputing Conference looms, Microsoft and HP announce plans to give high-performance computers mass-market appeal

Microsoft and HP announced on Tuesday an extension of their long-running collaborative sales and marketing agreement as they attempt to gather a bigger share in the growing market for high-performance computing and supercomputers.

The two companies aim to give high-performance computers (HPCs) more "mass market" appeal by making them easier to deploy, support and manage. Enhancements will include work on Windows Compute Cluster Server (CCS) that includes custom installation scripts and documentation aimed at making deployment easier. HP says there is now increased scalability of large clusters with the HP Message Passing Interface and InfiniBand drivers offering better performance in applications that require high-speed, low-latency communications.

Customers can "realistically expect to have a 64-node cluster deployed and running within two hours," HP said in a statement.

According to analyst Earl Joseph, programme vice president at IDC, there will be "continuing strong growth, averaging over 20 percent a year, with HPC standards-based clusters growing at even higher rates. End users are looking for easy-to-use systems and will likely go with vendors that can provide an easy transition from their desktop to HPC servers," Joseph said.

There has been a range of new and improved products announced this week in advance of the International Supercomputing Conference, which opens in Dresden on Wednesday.

On Monday, IBM announced that its latest Blue Gene computer, the Blue Gene/P, was capable of processing more that three quadrillion operations a second, or three petaflops. Blue Gene/P is designed to continuously operate at more than one petaflop in real-world situations.

Also on Monday, Sun announced the Constellation System, a high-performance computing platform that Sun executives claim will vault the company back into the top ranks of supercomputer manufacturers.

The influential Top 500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers, which currently has IBM in the top four positions, will be updated at the International Supercomputer Conference this week.