New Microsoft Supercomputer System Promises Ultra-Speedy Excel

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has released a revised beta edition of Windows High Performance Computer Server (HPC Server), in its effort to crack the supercomputing market. The new edition makes several changes which improve integration with Linux machines.

Supercomputing is all about processing speed: the idea being to produce computers capable of performing as many calculations as possible. The types of employed tasks tend not to be technically complicated, but instead involve a great deal of detail.

A typical example of supercomputing would be data modeling, in which a computer simulates future events where there are numerous possible combinations of events and outcomes, such as in weather forecasting or examining the possible effects of climate change.

The HPC Server debuted in 2008 and replaced the unfortunately-named Windows Complete Cluster Server 2003. Although Windows is still very rare among the leading supercomputers (and with most manufacturers taking the view that Linux machines offer much-needed reliability and stability), an HPC Server-based machine did at one point crack the list of the ten most powerful computers in the world. (Source:

Five New Features In Beta Windows HPC Server

There are five major changes introduced in the new beta edition of HPC Server:

  • Windows 7 machines can now be used as part of a larger 'supercomputer' (the technical term is that the network machines act as nodes within a cluster). You can think of a node as tree branch of a large tree.
  • Where a company has an office network, the individual machines can now be harnessed for a cluster: for example, machines used by office staff during the day could be switched to boosting central data processing overnight.
  • Clusters can now be customized to take full advantage of the processing power of graphics chips. This would be particularly useful when using desktop machines as part of a cluster.
  • The system now includes integration with Excel, meaning calculations which are too complicated for individual machines (and would thus either take too long to be practical or even risk memory overloads) can now be performed by a cluster. Sharing multiple PCs in this way to perform complex calculations is referred to as a form of decentralized computing.
  • Microsoft will work with other firms to integrate HPC Server technology so that it's easier to create a cluster that uses both Windows and Linux machines.

The final edition of HPC Server is expected to be completed and released later this year. At the moment, the system is formally known as HPC Server 2008, though that will presumably change when it goes to market. (Source:

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