HP offers cluster computing on Windows

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s cluster computing products can now run a Microsoft Corp. cluster operating system, which should be helpful to end users familiar with the ubiquitous Windows operating system.

HP said Friday its Unified Cluster Computing Portfolio for high performance computing can run on a certified version of Windows Compute Cluster Server (CCS) 2003. The operating system runs on HP Proliant and BladeSystem servers and other Cluster Computing configurations.

The portfolio has also been enhanced with the availability of HP Message Passing Interface (MPI) and a new HP Cluster Management Utility. An MPI is an industry protocol for communication between computing nodes, such as servers, running the same program on a network.

Cluster computing refers to the combination of several servers, usually in the same physical location, all tasked to the same computing project. Cluster computing differs from grid computing in that the servers in a cluster share the same IP address domain, while the servers on a grid have multiple domains.

Cluster computing is an option for enterprises that want access to considerable computing power but don’t have a big IT budget, said Bruce Toal, director of marketing for HP’s High-Perfomance Computing division. He said the price of a five-node HP cluster computing configuration on Windows CCS starts at US$18,000.

“We’re serving customers who haven’t previously had access to cluster computing at this kind of price,” Toal said.

Cluster computing is a form of high-performance and technical computing (HPTC). Microsoft issued CCS on June 9.

Microsoft cited IDC research that the HPTC market grew approximately 24 percent in 2005 to $9.2 billion in revenue. The cluster market share continued to show explosive growth, IDC stated, representing over 50 percent of HPTC market revenue in the first quarter of 2006.

The Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in the U.S. operates a 16-node cluster running Windows CCS to do molecular analyses of human diseases, said its director, Dr. Saifur Rahman.

Although Virginia Tech has significant IT infrastructure, the institute is located 250 miles from the main campus and a broadband connection to the main campus would cost thousands of dollars per month.

Also the cluster configuration can be expanded with more servers as needed, but not more than is needed, he said.

“We will invest as we need and not buy something [too big] and wait for war to come,” Rahman said.

The availability of a Windows OS will make it easier for student researchers to work on research because they are familiar with Windows, said Rahman.

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