UK supercomputing push gets Microsoft backing

University of Southampton is leading efforts to get UK industry to use supercomputers

Microsoft is backing a UK universities project to research new ways of cutting the cost of supercomputing.

High-performance computing is currently expensive because of the high costs associated with processing power and custom-built applications.

The University of Southampton on Wednesday is launching the Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing, which will look at cheaper ways of using supercomputing in areas including the aerospace, automotive, marine and telecommunications sectors.

Jeff Price, a senior director for Windows Server at Microsoft, told ZDNet UK's sister site, "It's a market we don't do much in today. We think it's our job to make it less expensive and easier to do. We're spending a lot of money in trying to enable more research here."

The move is part of a larger Microsoft research and development plan to create 10 supercomputing centres around the world, Bill Gates will announce later on Wednesday.

Speaking at Supercomputing 2005 in Seattle, Gates, the chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, will outline his plans to make high-performance computing more widely available.

Microsoft is also promoting faster computing speeds using 64-bit processing and virtualisation technologies at the company's IT Forum conference in Barcelona on Wednesday.

Professor Simon Cox of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences is leading the project. He was unavailable for comment — he is attending the conference in Seattle — but a source close to the partnership said the university will also be working on computational algorithms for researching Antarctica, coastal behaviour and evolutionary biology.

The University of Stuttgart in Germany is also taking part in the scheme, creating a virtual power plant, including a customised water turbine. The goal of the project is to learn how to develop virtually without having to create prototypes.