[Beowulf] How Can Microsoft's HPC Server Succeed?

Jon Forrest jlforrest at berkeley.edu
Wed Apr 2 15:04:28 PDT 2008

First of all, I like Microsoft, and I voluntarily use
Vista as my desktop of choice. I've built and run the
Windows environments for the top CS and Civil Engineering
departments in the US, and I was the first to port
Postgres to Windows NT.

That said, I just don't see how Microsoft's HPC server
can succeed. I'm not saying this for technical reasons,
as I'm sure Microsoft, with enough work, can build
a clustering environment that will work just fine.
But, why would anybody buy a Windows cluster when
there are so many great clustering environments (e.g.
Rocks, Perceus, Unicluster Express, ...) and so many
cluster-related packages (*MPI, SGE, PBS, gcc,
Torque, ...) available for free? What's more, from
what I can see, there is very little non-Microsoft-sponsored
development going on in HPC computing.

Microsoft recently announced (somewhere, I can't find it)
the availability of a test cluster for universities to
use for financial applications. I bet they get some
interest since many business schools use Windows, plus
the cluster is free.

But, the question remains. How can Microsoft compete with free?
How much better will they have to be than standard Linux
clusters before they get any mainstream interest? What technical
features could they add that couldn't be added to a Linux

Jon Forrest
Research Computing Support
College of Chemistry
173 Tan Hall
University of California Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
jlforrest at berkeley.edu

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