Microsoft: Windows HPC Server Cheaper Than Linux

On Monday at the High Performance Computing Financial Markets conference in New York City, Microsoft unveiled Windows HPC Server 2008 R2, an update that comes with expanded modeling and simulation features and which beefs up Excel as a front end for crunching massive amounts of data.

"High performance computing has been around for a long time, but it's definitely still the domain of PhDs and mathematicians," Joel Sider, senior product manager for the Windows Server Solutions Group, said in an interview. "We want to make it easier for scientists, engineers and traders to use the technology."

Microsoft's goal is to "democratize" high performance computing and chip away at the dominance of Linux in this segment, and the company is banging the total cost of ownership drum to make its case. Recent Microsoft-sponsored research from Crimson Consulting Group indicates that Windows HPC Server is 32 percent to 51 percent cheaper than Linux-based HPC systems over a five-year period.

"Linux is widely used for high performance computing, but it requires a lot of specialized expertise, whereas making systems available through the well known Windows interface makes HPC more broadly applicable," Sider said.

Sponsored post

One of the key new features of the new release is HPC Services for Excel 2010, which cuts the time required for Excel to make calculations across millions of records from days down to minutes, Sider said. In Microsoft's view, this could help Excel, which is already widely used in the financial services market, to become an even more indispensable tool.

Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 can also harness the computing power of Windows PCs and channel it into server clusters, in much the same way as the SETI@home project.

In the next few months, Microsoft will give customers running HPC Server 2008 R2 the ability to "burst up" into the Windows Azure cloud. ISVs that are seeing growing demand for their apps can use this for particularly intensive workloads, and it can also be used for quick financial risk analysis, Sider said, adding that Microsoft currently is testing this feature with a handful of early adopter partners.