July 02, 2007
Fresh off the revelation that Microsoft high-performance computing
(HPC) technologies are being widely adopted by customers, software and
hardware partners, a technical leader from Microsoft Corp.
discussed how the foundations of computer science and engineering must
be reinvented to deal with the mass-market adoption of processors with
many computing cores.
In a keynote address at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany, Microsoft technical fellow Dr. Burton Smith talked about new approaches to software development where everyday computer programs must be able to execute in parallel on multiple microprocessor cores, allowing developers to build more powerful, humanistic software applications that incorporate speech, conversation, rich visualization and anticipatory execution of tasks. The many-core inflection point was presented as a new challenge for the computing industry, namely general-purpose parallel computing.
"Our industry and the universities must work together to reinvent not only computing, but also the computing profession," Smith said. "The coming years will fundamentally reshape software and transform the way people use and interact with computers. In order for consumers to enjoy performance improvements in the future, mass-market technology providers will have to embrace parallel computing to differentiate and compete. It's vital that software and hardware adapt to new models of computing."
Smith urged commercial vendors to work with the academic and scientific communities to spur the next wave of discovery by creating software, tools and standards to help overcome existing barriers to parallel computing.
Broad Market Adoption for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003
Since general availability in August 2006, Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server (CCS) 2003 has been adopted in financial services, manufacturing, the oil and gas industry, digital content creation and biosciences, with HPC cluster deployments ranging in size from distributed departmental clusters to shared clusters as large as 7,000 nodes. Recent customers include aQuantive, Areva Challenge, BAE Systems, Boeing, Bombardier Transportation GmbH, Callaway Golf Co., DALCO/Alinghi, Fraunhofer-Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd. (PBMR), South Florida Water Management District and UniCredit Group (HVB).
In particular, Microsoft has seen strong adoption of Windows Compute Cluster Server within the financial services industry. For the Markets and Investment Banking division of UniCredit Group, one of the largest European banking groups, its structured derivatives business turned to Windows Compute Cluster Server to speed up pricing and risk-management applications, and simplify development and cluster management.
"We like the idea of Microsoft .NET as a full product family, the support for diverse programming languages, the excellent interoperability with Excel and the higher developer productivity," said Andreas Kokott, responsible director for the strategy of the structured derivatives platform within markets and investment banking at UniCredit Group. "The idea is to have the most standardized IT environment possible so that managing the cluster is just part of the normal workflow for IT personnel. The complexity should only be in the algorithms, not in the infrastructure."
In addition to large clusters, Windows Compute Cluster Server has also been adopted in departmental clusters to enable greater engineering productivity. In Kassel, Germany, Bombardier Transportation is using high-performance computing to perform comprehensive rail-vehicle crash analysis, which is required to comply with international standards. Based on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and running Livermore Software Technology Corp.'s (LSTC) LS-DYNA application, this solution helped the company to satisfy the new extended regulations while still being able to meet project time schedules. High performance, competitive pricing and simplified implementation were the reasons Bombardier Transportation decided on Windows Compute Cluster Server.
"We were right in the middle of a customer project and needed a solution quickly; Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 was the answer for us," said Hans-Jorg Dittmann, manager specialist engineering, Bombardier Transportation. "With Windows CCS, we are able to quickly do complex analysis computations and achieve shorter development cycles, without having exorbitant costs for the HPC solution."
In Centurion, South Africa, the employees of PBMR are using HPC to process and simulate highly complex finite element analysis and structural integrity tests using the MSC.Marc application from MSC.Software Corp. PBMR, which is developing the world's first Generation IV nuclear reactor, chose to run Windows CCS for its cluster because the Windows platform combines the performance and productivity needed to meet aggressive project timelines at the reactor.
"The Windows-based HPC environment has proven to be extremely reliable and provides for intuitive administration because we can leverage Active Directory and our in-house skills," said Faure Louw, group leader of the structural analysis team at PBMR. "Flexible and efficient job scheduling via Windows CCS has allowed more of our employees to utilize the HPC cluster resources, which frees up time of professionals to focus on increasing their productivity."
Microsoft is also working with software partners across industries to facilitate the next wave of discovery. Dozens of partners have publicly released applications that run on, or interoperate with, Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, including Altair Engineering, Dassault Systemes, The MathWorks, Platform Computing, Schlumberger and Wolfram Research.
At the same time, major system vendors from around the world are shipping integrated solutions based on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. These vendors include Bull SAS, Dell Inc., Equus, Fujitsu Ltd., HP, HPC Systems Inc., IBM Corp., NEC Corp., SGI, Supermicro Computer Inc., TeamHPC (a division of M&A Technology), Tyan Computer Corp. and Visual Technologies Inc.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
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