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

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Wed Apr 2 15:24:37 PDT 2008

Hi Jon

Jon Forrest wrote:
> 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.

Postgres is nice.  Did you do a native (ms C compiler) port or a cygwin 

> 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.

Oddly enough, for a long time I have believed (and we have proposed 
privately to Microsoft) ways in which I think it could make a 
difference.  In short, there are codes that are now and will always be 
windows based, and that is fine.  They may need to run on a cluster, and 
they should be able to.

> 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?

It needs to adapt.  But not necessarily "compete" the way it has in the 

> 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
> cluster?

These are critical questions.  The big question that needs to be 
answered (by Microsoft) is whether or not they need to displace or take 
over for Linux to be successful in this space.  I believe the answer to 
this is "no".

It might be worth engaging John West (InsideHPC.com), and a number of 
others in this conversation, as there are some good and informed views 
about this out there.

> Cordially,

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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