Microsoft's new high-performance-computing pack provides clustering in the cloud

Microsoft is making generally available its latest high-performance-computing software that provides support for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, among other features.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is making available to customers as of December 14 the next version of its high-performance-computing (HPC) software, known as HPC Pack 2012.


(As part of its move to simplify and reduce the number of Windows Server SKUs, Microsoft is no longer providing a Windows Server HPC product. Instead, it is providing the HPC functionality as a supplement to Windows Server.)

Microsoft's HPC software allows users to run HPC applications on HPC clusters that include on-premises compute nodes, part-time servers and resources running on Windows Azure.

Microsoft fourth "major" version of the software includes support for Windows Server 2012 (as head nodes, compute nodes, broker nodes and unmanaged server nodes) and Windows 8 (as clients and workstation nodes).

HPC Pack 2012 also includes the ability to install a head node on the preview of Windows Azure Virtual Machine, enabling an entire cluster to run "in the cloud," according to a new post on the HPC Team blog.

"Using the Preview release of Windows Azure Virtual Machine, an administrator or independent software vendor (ISV) can create and run an HPC cluster and workload fully in Windows Azure with only minimal or no investment in on-premises infrastructure," according to the company. The domain controller for the cluster can be either on-premises or running on Windows Azure. "You can add Windows Azure compute nodes to the cluster in the same way that you add Windows Azure nodes to an on-premises HPC cluster," said the "What's New" article on TechNet.

HPC Pack 2012 provides the ability to deploy compute nodes in Windows Azure where Windows Azure Virtual Network is present, the Softies noted. (Azure Virtual Network, codenamed "Project Brooklyn," provides connectivity between enterprise networks and the cloud.)

The fine print:

"You can use HPC Pack 2012 to deploy nodes in Windows Azure deployments in which Windows Azure Virtual Network is available. Virtual Network securely extends your enterprise network to Windows Azure, which allows applications that run on Windows Azure nodes to access resources on the enterprise network. With Virtual Network, you can build traditional site-to-site virtual private networks (VPNs) to scale data centers, and create hybrid applications that span from an on-premises HPC cluster to Windows Azure. This feature provides applications with the means to access files in shared folders, and to access servers for license validation."

Other new features in HPC Pack 2012: The ability to increase cluster robustness by adding more than two head nodes in a failover cluster group; single installion of all features previously split between the Express, Enterprise, Workstation and/or Cycle Harvesting editions; and overall performance and reliability updates.

HPC Pack 2012 is available for download from the Microsoft Download Center.

The HPC space remains a battleground for Windows and Linux, as it has been since well before the release of  HPC Pack 2012's predecessor, Windows High-Performance Computing Server 2008 R2 in 2010 and its SP2 update last year.

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