HP unveils cluster computing on Windows

The move opens up new possibilities for large Windows sites, users say

Hewlett-Packard’s cluster computing products can now run a Microsoft cluster operating system.

HP announced recently that 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 working on 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 organisations that want access to considerable computing power but don’t have a big ICT budget, says Bruce Toal, director of marketing for HP’s High-Perfomance Computing division.

Like grid computing, cluster computing is a form of high-performance and technical computing (HPTC).

Microsoft cites IDC research that the HPTC market grew approximately 24% in 2005 to US$9.2 billion in revenue. The cluster market share continues to show explosive growth, IDC says, representing over 50% of HPTC market revenue in the first quarter of 2006.

The Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in the US operates a 16-node cluster running Windows CCS which undertakes molecular analyses of human diseases, says director Dr Saifur Rahman.

Although Virginia Tech has significant ICT infrastructure, the institute is 400 kms 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 says.

“We will invest as we need and not buy something [too big].”

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

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