Microsoft HPC Server, Linux or both?

Microsoft rolls out Windows HPC Server 2008. Cluster Resources announces ‘Moab’ Linux hybrid.

Microsoft was showing off its Windows High Performance Cluster Server (HPCS) 2008 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers ATCE last month with the promise of ‘more accessible HPC capabilities for computer-aided engineering (CAE) in the upstream.’ Microsoft partner JOA Oil and Gas was running its ‘Jewel Suite’ field development planning application on a Windows HPCS machine from Nor-Tech. Nor-Tech’s ‘Portable Cluster’ clusters operate up to 128 compute cores on two 120VAC 20-amp circuits, using AMD’s new low-power Quad-Core Opteron HE processors. Nor-Tech’s clusters can be optionally delivered as fully sealed units for use in harsh environments using SprayCool’s liquid cooling technology.

Nor-Tech’s VP engineering, Dominic Daninger told Oil IT Journal, ‘Interest in portable supercomputing is being driven by the availability of multi-core CPU technology that allows high compute density from standard electrical outlets. Portable/work group clusters are much more economical than their big brothers and cost of ownership is lower.’

We asked Daninger how Windows HPC Server was faring against the ‘incumbent’ HPC operating system, Linux. Daninger explained, ‘In the past we found that Linux usually beat the previous version of Microsoft’s HPC operating system (CCS 2003). With the introduction of Windows HPCS 2008, Microsoft has significantly improved node-to- node networking latency by using remote direct memory access. On the same cluster we have seen benchmarks improve 25 to 30% between CCS 2003 and HPC Server 2008. But many other factors come into play when comparing Linux and Windows, such as how you have optimized math libraries. These can make direct comparison challenging.’

Visual Studio 2008 now provides a ‘comprehensive’ parallel programming environment with support for OpenMP, multiprocessor interconnect (MPI) and web services. HPCS supports third-party numerical library providers, performance optimizers, compilers and debugging toolkits.

Microsoft announced a new partnership with supercomputer leader Cray to introduce a new compact supercomputer, the Cray CX1 with a starting price of $25,000. Windows HPCS 2008 itself costs $475 per node.

In Houston earlier this month, HP and Cluster Resources were showing off an alternative, ‘hybrid’ approach to HPC for the oil and gas vertical. The ‘Moab’ hybrid cluster dynamically changes cluster servers between Linux and Windows based on workload, defined policies, and application needs. The Moab embeds virtualization technology from PCPC Direct and now runs Windows HPCS 2008. The hybrid cluster on show was built around an HP Cluster Platform Workgroup System (CPWS). HP product manager Ed Turkel said, ‘Customers operating high-performance clusters need a flexible infrastructure. The HP BladeSystem ‘c-Class’ coupled with Cluster Resources’ Moab solutions enables customers to maximize HPC investments by eliminating the complexities associated with analyzing large volumes of scientific data.’

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