November 16, 2010, 1:39 PM — Windows HPC Server customers will soon be able to run high-performance computing workloads on Windows Azure, Microsoft is announcing at this week's SC10 supercomputing conference in New Orleans.
The first service pack for Windows HPC Server 2008 R2, due before the end of this year, will let customers connect their on-premises high performance computing systems to Windows Azure, giving them "on-demand scale and capacity for high performance computing applications," Microsoft said.
Microsoft is also providing an Azure resource for scientists that will not require an installation of Windows HPC Server. The service makes the National Center for Biotechnology Information's BLAST technology, which lets scientists search the human genome, available on Azure. At SC10, Microsoft said it will demonstrate the NCBI BLAST application on Windows Azure performing 100 billion comparisons of protein sequences.
The new Windows HPC Service Pack's integration with Azure, meanwhile, gives Microsoft what it believes is a key differentiator between itself and the likes of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud: the ability to run supercomputing workloads across both in-house software and over the Internet on the cloud service.
"There is no on-premise Amazon, there is no on-premise Google computing resource," says Bill Hilf, general manager of Microsoft's technical computing group. "It's one of the big advantages we have."
HPC software is "really just a job scheduler that knows how to break up work and distribute it across a bunch of other servers," Hilf says. Integrating Windows HPC Server with Azure lets a customer's data center "talk to the Windows Azure system," and spread work across the two, he says. This makes sense for workloads that have large, temporary spikes in calculations.
Essentially, Microsoft is taking the concept of "cloud-bursting," the ability to access cloud-based computing resources in an automated way when applications need extra processing power, and applying it to the HPC world.
"This burst demand has been at the top of our HPC customers' requirements," Hilf says.