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Microsoft Secures Windows-Based Supercomputer

Microsoft Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Intel Corp. have committed $60 million over four years to fund the expansion of an existing high-performance-computing cluster at the Cornell Theory Center (CTC).

The agreement assures Microsoft of a continuing Windows presence in a large-scale research cluster, a field dominated in the price-performance end by Linux configurations. Dell and Intel are involved in large-scale Linux clusters elsewhere.

The CTC, a high-performance computing and interdisciplinary research center at Cornell's Ithaca, N.Y., campus, currently has 425 Dell servers running Windows operating systems on more than 900 Intel processors.

The agreement will double the size of the cluster with additional Dell PowerEdge servers running Windows and powered by 32-bit Intel Xeon and 64-bit Intel Itanium family processors.

The cluster is currently configured in general purpose, strategic application and dedicated clusters. Dedicated research clusters include 64 nodes for computational materials, 64 nodes for computational biology, 32 nodes for agricultural bioinformatics, 32 nodes for social and economic research and an immersive environment for scientific visualization.

In addition to the bragging rights of having a major high-performance computing center using Windows, Microsoft also has strategic and tactical goals in helping fund the CTC.

On the strategic front, Microsoft officials say they intend for the center to help bring the compute farm approach from university settings to business environments by showing practical applications.

"[The CTC] will be instrumental in moving HPC out of the research environment and into mainstream industry," Brian Valentine, Microsoft senior vice president of the Windows Division, said in a statement.

To that end, CTC will establish a technology showcase for proof-of-concept applications in Manhattan's financial district.

On the tactical side, CTC will develop Windows high-performance computing solution stacks for broad industry deployment. The research organization will also provide services such as UNIX to Windows code porting, optimization, and porting to parallel environments; systems planning and integration; systems and applications training and testing; and benchmarking, according to a joint statement from the CTC and its high-tech financial backers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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