Microsoft makes available new high performance Windows Server test build

Microsoft made available on November 16 a code-complete beta of Windows HPC (High Performance Computing) Server 2008 R2 to selected testers. The company made the announcement at the Supercomputing 2009 show in Portland, Oreg.

Microsoft made available on November 16 a code-complete beta of Windows HPC (High Performance Computing) Server 2008 R2 to selected testers.

The company made the announcement at the Supercomputing 2009 show in Portland, Oreg., where officials said they planned to provide all of the 4,500 or so of the attendees with the bits today. Microsoft also will be providing select testers with access to the downloadable beta via the Connect site today. Microsoft is expecting to release at least one more beta of HPC Server 2008 R2 before rolling out the final version some time in 2010.

HPC Server enables cluster supercomputing on x64 versions of Windows Server 2008 R2. The new release that is in testing is Microsoft's third iteration of the product.

With the HPC Server 2008 R2 beta, testers can run the test builds of Excel 2010 and Visual Studio 2010, supporting the development and use of parallel and scalable applications, Microsoft officials said.

Microsoft and its partners have been making a concerted effort to increase the appeal of its HPC Server product beyond the small segment of scientists and engineers who typically use supercomputers. Last week, Dell announced it would be the exclusive distributor of the Cray CX1 supercomputing workstation, which runs Windows 7 integrated with HPC Server on a single box.

"We're trying to make HPC more mainstream and accessible" to more engineers, financial quants and others in a variety of large and mid-size organizations, said Vince Mendillo, Microsoft Senior Director of High Performance Computing. To do this, the team is focused on providing new tools and techniques making HPC Server easier to set up and deploy, Mendillo said.

When Microsoft introduced the first version of HPC Server, Linux dominated the supercomputing market. Since then, Microsoft has been making inroads in market share and performance. Last year, Microsoft added "thousands of customers in large scale organizations" for the product, Mendillo said. (He declined provide any more specific data.) Microsoft now has 159 independent software vendor partners developing applications for HPC Server, Mendillo added.

Because HPC Server is part of the overall Windows Server family, MIcrosoft will fold back into the core Windows Server codebase new developments made by the HPC team. Mendillo said that some of the new parallel enhancements in the new HPC Server release would likely be useful to the Windows Azure team, which is building MIcrosoft's cloud-computing offering.