Microsoft Ships New High Performance Server

Microsoft's new HPC server takes advantage of multi-core computers and clusters to improve processing power, and is working on ties to Microsoft's Windows Azure computing cloud.

Microsoft announced it is shipping the latest release of its high-performance computing (HPC) server, meant to increase its performance by "orders of magnitude," and also said it plans to add links into the company's cloud computing platform in the coming months as well.

The announcement by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) came during the High Performance Computing Financial Markets Conference in New York on Monday.

The latest release, dubbed Windows HPC Server 2008 Release 2 (R2), has been expected since last November, when Microsoft released a beta test version.

High on the list of new and updated features -- significantly improved processing -- especially for Excel, Microsoft officials claim.

"With some customers, Excel processing can take days," Ryan Waite, general manager of the Microsoft Technical Computing Group, told "For one insurance company, Excel processing went from seven days down to about four hours [with the new HPC version]," Waite added.

Microsoft also provides tools for Visual Studio 2010 that enables developers to write parallel computing applications. "We provide a set of parallel computing hooks in Visual Studio 2010," Waite said, adding "Multi-core computing is here to stay."

Microsoft also said the new server would let customers turn spare processor cycles on Windows 7-based workstations into desktop compute clouds that expand the capacity of Windows HPC Server clusters.

Integration with the cloud

Finally, at the conference, Microsoft showed off an upcoming update to Windows HPC Server that lets administrators provision and manage HPC nodes in Microsoft's Windows Azure computing cloud from within on-premises server clusters, the statement continued.

"Integration with the cloud lets you plug Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 into Azure and offload work to the cloud," Waite said.

Earl Dodd, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center (RMSC) in Butte, Mont., is one of Microsoft's showcase customers for the new release. RMSC is a new public-private partnership aimed at providing cost-effective supercomputing to businesses in the state and region.

"The vast majority of our customers are small and medium-sized businesses, and [Native American] tribal organizations," Dodd told "RMSC is the broker of technology to drive competitiveness for the region," he added.

Dodd said the Windows HPC Server release gives businesses access to super computing resources to perform tasks like modeling carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere from specific crops.

Microsoft has been making headway in HPC circles for the past several years. Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 is the third iteration of its HPC server, according to Waite.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: Microsoft, server security, server software, HPC Server 2008, Server 2008

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