Microsoft announces plans for a Windows HPC edition
Fellow HPC enthusiasts,
Microsoft announced plans to release an HPC edition of Windows Server 2003. You can read about it here if you're interested. It will be interesting to see how Windows fares in what has traditionally been a UNIX and Linux domain.
The Cornell Theory Center has been operating large Windows-based clusters for some time now. Does anyone know of any other high-profile sites that use Windows in their HPC environment? If you're using Windows on your HPC systems, please share your experiences with the forum.
Afew years agoI built a Windows cluster in the lab so that a customer could test some parallel applications. We installed the Windows version of MPICH and MPI/Pro from MPI Software Technology. The customers applications performed the same whether the cluster used Windows or Linux. I haven't seen much demand for Windows clusters lately, possibly because cluster configuration and management tools likeOSCAR and NPACI Rocksmake Linux clustering so easy.
I am interested to find out what folks out there think of using Microsoft as the OS for their HPCs. Have any of you run it using their cluster toolkit? If so, what issues have you had, and what are the good aspects of it? What would you like to see added/improved with the toolkit? We have direct access to the Microsoft developers that are involved in this, so any feedback (both positive and negative) are welcome.
I don't know anyone who has been offered a trial "cluster toolkit" from Microsoft. We've been told Microsoft wouldn't make anything available to try as a beta until November, and it would support only x64. Meanwhile, they are still trying to discourage us from using cygwin to run software builds and QA suites, but no alternative has been offered. A year ago, Microsoft was trying to sell 2003 server as a cluster system, but we don't know of any success.
We have seen clusters of 4 2-way Xeon running successfully with Argonne MPICH and XP Pro, and heard about clusters of 16 Xeon CPUs running with a Samba server. The usual motivation for the latter is to gather Windows workstations into a cluster during off hours, without having to reboot into linux, or having the project shot down by exhorbitant license fees.
My students, associates in a local company and I have been developing distributedprocessing software for the last three years. Our primary development platform is Windows 2000 with Visual Studio and MPI-Softtech's MPI library. Once we finish debugging an application, we port our software to run at the Maui High Performance Computing Cluster (where the OS is Linux). Most of the time we make little or no changes to our source code. Thegcc C++ compiler at MHPCC is old and we are aware of the limitations. The performance on both the clusters is about the same given the hardware configurations.
You shouldn't be surprised that most of the discussion in this forum focuses on Linux. Linux and UNIX are still the dominant operating systems for HPC. Many critical HPC applications are not available on Windows. Also, I don't know of any OEM's who sell Windows-based clusters. This may change whenMicrosoft Windows HPC Edition is released. I'm looking forward to seeing Microsoft at SC2004 next month.
I've used MPI Software Technologies MPI/Pro and MPICH-NT on a Windows cluster but that was a long time ago. Performance was roughly the same but the application being tested mainly used point-to-point communication. I remember seeing articles several years ago showing that MPI/Pro gave better performance for collective communication butI don't know if this is still true.