Windows Ekes Out a Presence in Supercomputing

Only five of the top 500 supercomputers in the world run Windows, but it's a start. Microsoft lays out its strategy for the high-performance computing market.
Posted November 26, 2008

Andy Patrizio

The bi-annual release of the Top 500 supercomputer list is an opportunity for a flurry of press releases as every company crows about its bragging rights: HP had the most machines on the list, IBM held most of the top spots, Intel chips were in almost 400 of the machines and AMD had the top two spots.

A quieter debut, without much fanfare, was the No. 10 spot, featuring the first appearance of a supercomputer from China's Shanghai Supercomputer Center.

The Dawning 5000A is a Quad-Core Opteron machine with Infiniband connectors and 12 terabytes of memory, power by Microsoft Windows HPC 2008.

That makes for a total of four Windows HPC 2008 systems and one Windows Computer Cluster 2003 machine on the list. OK, so Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is only at one percent of the operating systems on the list, while Linux is on 389 (77 percent) of the machines.

But for Microsoft, recently entered high performance computing (HPC), it's a start.

The company officially kicked off its efforts with a Bill Gates keynote at Supercomputer '05, which was held in Seattle. Gates proved prescient once again, predicting that there would eventually be "supercomputers of all sizes," while one of his slides referred to it as the "rise of the personal supercomputer."

"Our motivation is where requests have been coming from," he said. "There's a certain set of users with Windows base skill and want to be able to use it."

For that reason, the company thinks it can get into HPC not as a displacement for Linux, but as a co-existent partner. "The reality will be people alternating between operating systems out there," Wierer said. "Even if you've settled on using Linux, there will be times when those apps have overriding stacks. So this is a complement to existing strategies to run Windows for the code that can only run on Microsoft's stack."

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Tags: Microsoft, chips, Intel, HP, AMD

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