Microsoft visits cash-strapped Wall Street to roll out HPC Server 2008

Upgraded high-performance computing OS lets some apps run in parallel without rewrites

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The ability to run some existing application code without rewriting it to support the Message Passing Interface (MPI) communication protocol may be the most important feature in HPC Server 2008 for financial services firms.

MPI support is needed for parallel applications in which pieces of computing processes running on different servers must communicate with each other. But it isn't required for so-called embarrassingly parallel workloads, in which computations can run independently of each other — an approach that is often used in financial services workloads, said Kyril Faenov, general manager of high-performance computing at Microsoft.

Making it possible for users to run applications in parallel without having to rewrite them is a move toward broadening the use of HPC technologies, Faenov said in an interview. That capability is a "first step in the much longer path for us to make parallelism easier," he said.

Microsoft has made improving parallelism one of its key HPC goals. For instance, the company is working to enable F#, a functional-programming language that eventually will be integrated into Visual Studio 2008, to be used for parallel development.

Microsoft, which issued a "feature-complete" beta version of HPC Server 2008 in June, said today that evaluation copies of the new software can be downloaded from its Web site. Last week, hardware vendor Cray Inc. said it was teaming up with Microsoft and Intel Corp. to offer a desktop supercomputer that runs HPC Server 2008 and starts at $25,000.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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