Microsoft might be yielding slivers of ground to Linux in the desktop arena, but according to the company, it has made strides in the realm of high performance computing. On Monday, Microsoft unveiled the first beta of Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 and released benchmarks showing performance parity with Linux in HPC systems.
The news came at Supercomputing 09, the HPC industry's annual confab of engineers, scientists and academia in Portland, Oregon. "We're seeing performance numbers that rival Linux from micro-kernel benchmarks to ISV benchmarks," said Vince Mendillo, senior director of high performance computing at Microsoft.
Performance gains are credited in part to enhancements to Microsoft's implementation of the Message Passing Interface (MPI) specification and to RDMA over Ethernet and InfiniBand, which permits nodes to access system memory of other nodes in the cluster without going through the operating system. The beta also reportedly includes optimizations for new processors and can deploy and manage up to 1,000 nodes.
Mendillo said that with these and other forthcoming releases--including a technology preview this week of Excel 2010 running on a cluster--Microsoft is putting supercomputing within reach of more enterprises. A major cog in that machine is Visual Studio 2010, set for release in March. "We've abstracted a lot of the capabilities of native and managed code so you can express parallelism with less lines of code," said Mendillo. "That's the first way to do it--if you're writing a new application. You can do it in fewer lines of code and not get yourself in trouble, because writing parallel code is very difficult."
For existing applications, he said VS2010 now includes help for MPI and porting. "We've had the MPI programming model for the last few iterations. If you have existing code, we provide a debugger and additional tools to help you debug your MPI code and port it over to Windows." Visual Studio 2010, now in beta 2, shares a download page with a more cluster-savvy .NET 4 Framework.