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Windows and Linux for Supercomputers

May 28th, 2004 · No Comments

News.com writes about the looming battle as Windows tries to attack Linux in cluster computing:

High-performance computing once required massive, expensive, exotic machines from companies such as Cray, but the field is being remade by the arrival of clusters of low-end machines. While the trend could be considered an opportunity for Microsoft, which has long been the leading operating-system company, Linux has actually become the favored software used on these clusters.

In a recent interview, Bob Muglia, a Microsoft senior vice president who leads the development of Windows Server, said the company is interested in two particular areas: building high-performance computing clusters and harvesting the unused processing power of PCs.

Linux, boosted by low-cost servers using processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, now is used on prestigious machines. Thunder, a machine at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with 512 Linux servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, can perform more than 19 trillion calculations per second, second only to Japan’s Earth Simulator.

Dozens of machines in a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers run Linux, including five of the top 10. Only two on the list are identified as Windows machines.

One reason Windows has been slow to catch on is that Unix and Linux were bred to be administered remotely, a necessary feature for managing a cluster with dozens or hundreds of computers.

In Windows, “the notion of remote computing is significantly more difficult than in Unix,” Papadopoulos said. “Because Windows was born out of the desktop, (it is) deeply ingrained in the Microsoft culture that you have somebody sitting in front of the machine to do work.”

Tags: Software

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