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Supercomputing Operating Systems Software Windows Technology

Windows Breaks Into Supercomputer Top 10 294

Posted by timothy
from the adversity-breeds-strength-in-redmond-too dept.
yanx0016 writes "Wow, that's some news this week at SuperComputing 08. Apparently Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008, with a Chinese hardware OEM (Dawning), made #10 on the Top500 list, edging out #11 by only 600 Gflops. Folks were shocked to see Microsoft getting so serious around HPC; I think we are only beginning to see a glimpse of Microsoft in the HPC field."
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Windows Breaks Into Supercomputer Top 10

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  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:04PM (#25824529)
    FLOPS and MIPS are all very well, but if the OS is pissing them away then it does not matter much.
    • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

      by westbake (1275576) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:36PM (#25825085) Homepage

      Can you imagine a botnet of those?

      I can.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Actually, what I can imagine is this thing phoning home and sending duplicate data and programs to its Chinese backdoor masters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fm6 (162816)

        The main reason Windows is such a bot magnet is its huge need for constant care and feeding. Joe Sixpack who just bought his new computer at Walmart is in no position to provide this. Presumably the PRC has more resources.

        Also, if I were setting up a botnet, I'd avoid infecting computers that belonged to a government that was known to apply the death penalty frequently, both officially and privately.

    • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:44PM (#25825199)

      FLOPS and MIPS are all very well, but if the OS is pissing them away then it does not matter much.

      (Interviewing MS HPC Program Manager)

      "Well, yeah it does stuff! Just look. You've got it all right here...Word, Excel, even Access. And just wait until you see how fast the cards fly when you win Solitaire!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by spintriae (958955)
      Well I bet the OS boasts one visually impressive BSoD.
  • Retarded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Directrix1 (157787) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:05PM (#25824541)

    Honestly, why would anyone want to roll-out something like this on Windows. A lot of extra expense for little practical value.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I seriously doubt that anyone with enough to spend on a top 10 supercomputer is worried about the Windows tax.

      • Re:Retarded (Score:5, Insightful)

        by turgid (580780) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:33PM (#25825031) Journal

        Flagship demo projects like this often get exceedingly big discounts from the vendors.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Perhaps not, but even if true they should be worried about the unproven track record of Windows on HPC, the crap hardware support, the crap vendor support and the huge question marks over little things like performance and stability and you have to wonder why the hell you'd ever bother. Most software written for HPC systems never go near the OS specific features anyway: you do everything through libraries like MPI which abstract it all away for you. Where is the advantage of Windows on the compute nodes? Lo
        • Re:Retarded (Score:5, Insightful)

          by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:38PM (#25826805)

          I hate to defend Microsoft, but...

          Crap hardware support? Who cares - you're running numerical calculations, not a bloody game on some tossy video card.

          Crap vendor support? This vendor will have been given full support by Microsoft, and will be equally supportive of their users.

          Performance? They're in the top 10.

          Stability? If you're not dealing with odd hardware / crappy drivers, Windows Server versions are actually fairly stable.

          Why not run your compute nodes under Windows?

          You can actually run Windows Server 2000 and above headless, removing any GUI overhead - so why not?

          I still agree that on any particular hardware configuration, Linux or another *nix will likely be faster, but your experience of desktop applications doesn't necessarily translate to HPC.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Rhys (96510)

            For the same reason that people knock Linux on the desktop -- software, software, and software. The codes that exist for HPC have been developed over years and guess what they target as a platform? UNIX. Do they have a scheduler/queue system? Is it torque/moab? How about a parallel debugger like Totalview? Are the install and cluster control (startup shutdown etc) tools functional and mature? How's hardware fault debugging under windows when headless?

            The real question is what % of cycles do they deliver on

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:12PM (#25824659)

      That is, programmers who are familiar with Windows more than other systems.

      And Microsoft is also looking to roll out a new language that is supposed to make parallel programming much easier for those programmers.

      If it works, there would be a LOT more apps that take advantage of these systems.

      • Erm this is a super computer we are talking about, not a gaming PC or even a few servers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by remmelt (837671)

        So you're getting your car fixed by the milkman?

        Supercomputing and parallel computing are different than building regular apps and websites. Why would you want to get the wrong programmers for the job?

    • Re:Retarded (Score:4, Funny)

      by hey! (33014) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:25PM (#25824895) Homepage Journal

      Actually, Microsoft has an interesting idea here, to integrate a high performance computer installation with Windows client software such as Excel. Of course, there's no reason at all the back end supercomputer has to be running Windows, other than the fact that Microsoft will sell you the complete software stack, presumably through system integrators.

      Frankly, I don't see why you'd want to do that, but obviously this is out of the box thinking. Maybe they see some application area for this, such as financial services, that is untapped, although if that's the case their timing is not fortuitous...

      • by jon3k (691256)
        Ballmer already said numerous times that they're trying to catch up with google, they want to offer applications deployed over the web ala SaaS, so obviously they need a powerful cluster/grid backend to handle all the processing. This software, I'm assuming, will do exactly that.
      • by devjj (956776) *

        ...Microsoft will sell you the complete software stack, presumably through system integrators.

        Translation: Microsoft will lock you into their platform with while external integrators give you the illusion of choice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356)
      Honestly, why would anyone want to roll-out something like this on Windows.
      .

      Development tools. Something Microsoft is very, very, good at.
      And missing from the summary is this little note: Just a year ago, the best Microsoft could do was 116th place based on rankings from Top500.org, which has been benchmarking supercomputers since 1993 with its bi-annual tests it calls "runs."

      • by devjj (956776) *

        That's probably easier than it sounds when you're the world's largest and most powerful software house and can afford to lose a lot of money to get to that spot.

        What is the business case for this for Microsoft? Anyone know?

        This seems like an area where an executive decided it was simply unacceptable for Windows not to play in this space.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by symbolset (646467)

          What is the business case for this for Microsoft? Anyone know? This seems like an area where an executive decided it was simply unacceptable for Windows not to play in this space.

          That's exactly right. Bragging rights. They get to say their platform can scale, and that 1% of the gee-whiz propeller heads that really know their stuff enough to build the world's most powerful supercomputers recognize the advantages of their platform.

          Given the targeted nature of their involvement, a critical eye might look to the methods used to influence those propeller heads. In HPC as in national government the motivation is not perfectly on Total Cost of Ownership and value for price, and even wh

      • Re:Retarded (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alex Belits (437) * on Thursday November 20, 2008 @02:28AM (#25829365) Homepage

        Development tools. Something Microsoft is very, very, good at.

        Microsoft development tools are in the category "If this helps you, you are not qualified for this job to begin with". An equivalent would be multiplication table on mathematician's desk or marathon runner on crutches.

    • by thermian (1267986)

      why retarded? The only reason I wouldn't want to use windows for this kind of thing is their license fees. Since they have their per core license model, it would get really costly.

      This makes me use Linux for such things.

      • MS doesn't operate a per core licensing model, only a per physical CPU model. One CPU license is enough to cover 1, 2, 4, 8 or even more cores on CPU package.
    • Re:Retarded (Score:5, Funny)

      by trb (8509) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:49PM (#25825319)

      Honestly, why would anyone want to roll-out something like this on Windows.

      Did you ever see the hippos [youtube.com] doing the Dance of the Hours in Disney's Fantasia? It's like that.

    • Honestly, why would anyone want to roll-out something like this on Windows. A lot of extra expense for little practical value.

      Vista Benchmarking?

      "World record! "True Cluster" supercomputer runs Vista at 87% its intended speed!"

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:06PM (#25824565) Journal

    ...and I thought "hey, that's not news. I've known that for years!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LingNoi (1066278)

      I thought it meant a malware infected Desktop hacked into the top 10 rated supercomputer.

  • Being the flash of the BSOD before your pricey super computer reboots?

  • by crt (44106) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:09PM (#25824603)
    From the Dawning site:

    Arming the "Golden Shield" project with comprehensive IT technology
    With the rapid development of the Internet, the public security information construction has become an important component of national information construction. Dawning made contributions in improving information technology level within all of the public security departments, arming the "Golden Shield" project with information technology, equipping the "police" force with digitalization, intensifying the police by technology and comprehensively raising China public security's law enforcement and administrative capacity.

    I like how they quote "police" force.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ddusza (775603)
      Rooooooooxxxxxxxxaaaannnn!!!! Oops, maybe Sting isn't the project lead on this one....
  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:10PM (#25824619)

    So how many CALs are required to access the system?

    And if I want to make the system available to a different researcher every 2 hours how much is it going to cost them to be license compliant?

    How much cpu power am I going to need to compute the licensing costs?

    http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sam/lic_cal.mspx

    • by joeflies (529536) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:20PM (#25824799)

      "With the release of HPC Server 2008 a few weeks ago, Microsoft also offered an academic version priced at $15 per node to generate interest. By comparison, a commercial license runs $450 per node"

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RichMan (8097)

        The price per node is $450 commercial.

        The #10 place was achieved with 30720 cores.

        That is $13,840,000 for the HPC Server licenses. I presume each comes with the stanadard 50 or 100 CAL's.

        Beyond that you are licensing 30720 cal's per each new user that gets access to the system.

        • by Anpheus (908711) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:09PM (#25826467)

          Each node probably has 4 CPUs and 4 cores each, which reduces the price significantly, to only $28 for the commercial version, or about a dollar per node for the academic version.

          That's not bad. And of course you don't understand the CALs, but hey, making erroneous statements can get you modded insightful so maybe I should spout something disingenuous about Linux, like it costs $699 to license it from SCO or something.

          (For the uninformed, not all CALs are created equally and the parent is assuming that these are named licenses that must be purchased for each user. Many different kinds of CALs exist, and I suspect these are either physical unit licenses or concurrent access licenses, i.e.: you purchase 1 per node, period.)

          • by baggins2001 (697667) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @04:23AM (#25829855)
            I think the point he was trying to make is
            (For the uninformed, not all CALs are created equally and the parent is assuming that these are named licenses that must be purchased for each user. Many different kinds of CALs exist, and I suspect these are either physical unit licenses or concurrent access licenses, i.e.: you purchase 1 per node, period.)
            From an IT management perspective this is one of the biggest BS headaches around.
            CEO - 'So you have to pay extra to connect to the server even after you paid for the server software'
            IT - 'Yes $35 dollars per seat or we could go by server connection'
            CEO - 'So it's simple then we just multiply number of employees by number by $35'
            IT = 'No, it's by connection. If a computer is connecting to a server it needs a call or the server needs a CAL for a connection. We need to figure out which is cheaper for us. Has nothing to do with whether a person is using the computer. Here's an estimate'
            CEO - 'Holy crap, okay be done with it'.
            IT - 'Well we have got to decide if we want everyone to have full access to the Exchange Server'
            CEO - 'Well multiply by $35 and be done with it'
            IT - 'Well that's more like $75 to $100 depending on how many CALS we get'.
            Ad nauseam explaining all the different CALS and different licensing options.

            Actually how the conversation got started was by handing the 3 required quotes to Purchasing. Three different prices from three different Certified MS vendors. None able to totally explain why they differed and all willing to say we would be compliant if we purchased these.
            The question which came back was why do 4 $475 dollar servers end up costing us $7000.
            Then we got into client and office suite licensing OEM vs non-OEM.


            But basically they studied and learned in depth enough about it that NT4 was the last server version purchased.

            So basically if they had only required a $699 license to SCO we would probably be still using Windows Servers.
            So while MS classes fill the young techies head with knowledge on CALs, other OS classes are concentrating on different protocols and how email servers, web servers, dhcp servers ... actually work.
            We kind of find more pride in fixing the problem, and less in endurance phone calls to MS tech support,and intricate knowledge of MS licensing options.
      • by PitaBred (632671)

        In further news, Linux is still free on a per-node basis. A 100 node machine is $45,000 cheaper with Linux, which means you could get a lot more nodes with the cost savings.

  • McColo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:16PM (#25824717)

    Shortly after coming online, they noticed that it broke a speed record downloading "instructions" from abilena.podolsk-mo.ru

  • by monktus (742861) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:17PM (#25824749)
    Then all you get is, "It looks like you're decoding the human genome. Would you like some help?"
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:18PM (#25824755)

    edging out #11 by only 600 Gflops

    Emphasis mine.

    Maybe I'm suffering from a case of advancing years, but I couldn't help but be amazed by this metric. These days it is indeed small, but another part of me remembers being a fifteen year old kid amazed at how absolutely great his C64 was.

    I wonder exactly how many years a C64 would have to run to make up a single seconds worth of that difference. How long would a C64 have to run to perform 600 Gflop? How long would every single C64 ever made have to run? I wonder.

    You'd have to run some integer-only 6502 IEEE floating point library or something like that to figure out how long a single floating point operation would take on the C64. Then multiply by 600G.

    Would it be a few years? A few millenia? Blue-green algae?

  • by ivanmarsh (634711) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:19PM (#25824771)

    to run Windows 7.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:21PM (#25824821) Homepage Journal

    and 500 screens showing "allow or deny?"

    • by BluBrick (1924)

      This is in China. Your opinion on "Allow or deny?" is not sought - those 500 screens simply show "Denied".

  • by doublegauss (223543) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:22PM (#25824825)

    For once, a computer that deserves the "Vista capable" sticker.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196)

    Who verifies the results of these tests? Are these Chinese results produced by doping, the way that Chinese "OEMs" produce high protein food by doping it with toxic melamine that kills children and pets, or shiny toys with lead paint that poisons children? Or any of the many other cheats Chinese "OEMs" use to get past tests with flying colors that bamboozle people into thinking it's really quality?

  • by jon3k (691256) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:38PM (#25825113)
    Software and hardware cost (seperated) per GFLOP please.
  • Potentially bogus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greg Lindahl (37568) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:45PM (#25825237) Homepage

    A couple of years ago I was surprised when one of my HPC customers issued a press release saying that their machine ran Windows HPC. The high-speed interconnect we'd sold them had no Windows drivers. You can guess what was going on: MicroSoft paid for the press release, and the machine actually ran Linux.

    Dawning's previous fast machine ran Linux.

    • Re:Potentially bogus (Score:5, Interesting)

      by leoxx (992) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:55PM (#25825443) Homepage Journal

      What is most interesting to me is that in the case of HPC, the situation between Windows and Linux is reversed. Linux has overwhelming market share in HPC, compared to Windows status as a niche player (and that is being generous). Despite this fact, Microsoft regularly gets fawning coverage in the media for their HPC efforts, far more than they should be if you consider their marketshare. It's like PC Magazine going on and on about all the latest developments in the Linux desktop market.

  • by BronsCon (927697) <social@bronstrup.com> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:58PM (#25825463) Journal

    nobody in their right mind would let Windows in willingly.

  • Cue the Vista jokes now. You know, the ones this:
    "Will it run Vista?"
    "Finally I can use Aero" ...and so, and so on.

    DISCLAIMER: I'm a Linux aficionado, but have to use Vista for development.

  • by Lennie (16154) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:18PM (#25825777) Homepage

    What's missing in the article is that there are only a few windows-based systems in the top500 and there numbers have been declining over the years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NullProg (70833)

      What's missing in the article is that there are only a few windows-based systems in the top500 and there numbers have been declining over the years.

      Actually, Microsofts share has increased, they went from nothing to 5 installs in a few years.
      http://www.top500.org/stats/list/32/osfam [top500.org]

      "OS Family" "Count" "Share %"
      Linux 439 87.80 %
      Windows 5 1.00 %
      Unix 23 4.60 %
      BSD Based 1 0.20 %
      Mixed 31 6.20 %
      Mac OS 1 0.20 %

      I congratulate Microsoft on making the top te

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:21PM (#25825823)
    So how many gigaflops does Norton Antivirus use on that puppy?
  • but over a Peta-BSODps
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:14AM (#25828525)

    #10 on the list uses a AMD x86_64 Opteron Quad Core @ 1900 MHz and has 30720 cores and pumps out 180600 GFlops.

    #8 on the list uses a AMD x86_64 Opteron Quad Core @ 2100 MHz and has 30976 cores and pumps out 205000 GFlops.

    #10 runs windows, #8 runs linux.

    Working through this: Gflops/# of cores/Mhz per core I get:

    #10 with 3.094 Gflops/Mhz and #8 with 3.151 Gflop/Mhz

    This leaves the linux machine getting 57 more KFlops per Mhz than the windows box.

    disclaimer: Totally useless mental farking, without knowing more about the systems other components and more about the processor generations it's silly to assume the 57 KFlops is purely due to the OS, but hey, it's windows and everyone loves an easy target. :D

  • by Helldesk Hound (981604) on Thursday November 20, 2008 @12:38AM (#25828679) Homepage

    So why does anybody need a cluster of MS Windows servers to run MS Exchange so that people can merely read their email?

    If MS can rake up a machine to hit Nr 10 in the performance stakes why can't it make a regular server that can cope with the BAU workloads of medium-sized businesses?

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