Gates Leads Microsoft into HPC

By Nicole Hemsoth

November 21, 2005

At Supercomputing 2005, an international conference for high-performance computing, networking and storage, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates delivered the opening keynote address to more than 7,000 attendees. In the address, titled “The Role of Computing in the Sciences,” Gates shared a vision of how the software industry can contribute to accelerating scientific research and engineering innovation, calling for broad collaboration between the computing industry, academia and government to make technical computing easier and more productive. Gates also announced that, as part of the company's steps toward realizing this vision, Microsoft is funding joint research projects at ten academic centers worldwide and has released the beta 2 version of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Microsoft's first product offering for high-performance computing.

“Technical computing is crucial to the many discoveries that impact our quality of life — from making safer, more efficient cars and airplanes to addressing global health issues and environmental changes,” Gates said. “Moreover, most sciences are becoming computational sciences, which is why advanced computing capabilities need to be seamlessly integrated into the end-to-end scientific process. We see many opportunities to collaborate with the scientific community on innovative solutions that will accelerate the pace of insight and discovery.”

In addition to computational modeling and clusters — groups of computers that run as unified systems — Gates addressed the transformation resulting from the availability of massive amounts of real-world data from low-cost sensors. This powerful combination creates new opportunities, but also new challenges, particularly with how to manage, search, analyze and publish that data and the resulting conclusions. Improving end-to-end workflow will be pivotal in changing the world of work for scientists, engineers and researchers.

Gates urged software-makers and other technology vendors to work with the scientific community to spur the next revolutionary wave of discovery by creating software, tools and standards to help eliminate today's barriers to scientific collaboration.

Microsoft is working with the computing industry to help facilitate the next wave of discovery and deliver software that addresses some of the barriers scientists, engineers and researchers face. With the delivery of Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 Beta 2 today and general product availability scheduled for the first half of 2006, Microsoft will offer an HPC platform that accelerates the time to insight. Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 is designed to be simple to deploy, operate and integrate with existing infrastructure and tools.

To help ensure simple integration of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 with a broad set of applications and tools, Microsoft is working closely with software, application and hardware partners across the industry. This collaboration is designed to meet customers' unique needs by enabling them to choose among and run a variety of compatible HPC applications. Microsoft is being joined in its booth at Supercomputing 2005 by 17 software partners and a number of hardware partners, including Dell Inc., HP, IBM Corp., NEC Corp., Orion Multisystems Inc., Tyan Computer Corp. and Verari Systems Inc., to demonstrate 20 industry-specific HPC applications.

“The MathWorks has been providing engineers and scientists with technical computing tools for the last 20 years,” said Cleve Moler, chairman and chief scientist at The MathWorks Inc. “The capabilities and direction of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 complement The MathWorks' mission to provide software to accelerate the pace of innovation and discovery in engineering and science. The combination of the Windows platform and MATLAB distributed computing tools allows customers to make better and faster progress with high-performance computing tasks and deliver meaningful results that can accelerate the time to insight.”

Microsoft is working with software partners across the manufacturing, life sciences and geosciences, and other industries to make a robust set of commercial applications available on Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. This includes integrating applications with the Microsoft Message Passing Interface and the Microsoft job scheduler, and offering performance-tuning technologies to run on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. As part of this effort, Microsoft is working with Intel Corporation to provide software vendors with a robust set of resources — including 64-bit hardware, software and tools from both companies, and joint on-site engineering assistance — to enable broader application support on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 when it is released to the market.

Partnering With and Investing in the HPC Community

Gates also announced an investment in ten institutes for HPC worldwide. This multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in joint research projects at these institutes will help guide ongoing software research and product innovation at Microsoft to address the most challenging technical computing problems. These institutes are Cornell University (U.S.); Nizhni Novgorod State University (Russia); Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China); Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan); University of Southampton (England); University of Stuttgart (Germany); University of Tennessee (U.S.); University of Texas at Austin (U.S.); University of Utah (U.S.); and University of Virginia (U.S.).

“Easier access to workgroup and departmental HPC resources, such as that provided by Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, will play an ever-increasingly important role in furthering scientific and engineering innovation in academia and industry,” said Jack Dongarra, Ph.D., distinguished professor and director of the University of Tennessee Innovative Computing Lab. “Our research project will focus on self-adapting high-performance applications and software on the Windows platform, which could help scientists and engineers reduce the time and effort to discovery. I've found that Microsoft's passion for technology innovation around an integrated development and deployment software platform will help expand the potential for many who haven't had access to high-performance computing resources in the past.”

In the closing statements of his keynote address, Gates reiterated Microsoft's long-term commitment to working with the HPC community and emphasized his enthusiasm for the future role of computing in scientific discovery.

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