HPC Improvements for Window Azure Due Shortly

Microsoft today announced some Windows Azure improvements on the horizon for organizations that conduct high-performance computing (HPC) analyses.

Among the improvements are beefed-up hardware and new management software to help organizations perform HPC analyses using either Windows Azure, on-premises clusters, or a combination of the two. Microsoft plans to roll out its new HPC Pack 2012 software in December; the update includes job scheduling and monitoring tools for computation-intensive workloads. The solution works with Windows Server 2012 and integrates with the Windows Azure virtual private network (VPN).

With its partners, Microsoft is testing improved Windows Azure hardware configurations; the company plans to provide public access to enhanced "big compute" capabilities in Windows Azure next year. Microsoft says it will roll out the first "virtualized InfiniBand RDMA [remote direct memory access] network capability for MPI [message passing interface] applications."

According to a Windows Azure blog post, "For applications written to use the message-passing interface (MPI) library, RDMA allows memory on multiple computers to act as one pool of memory."  The blog also notes that  "Our RDMA solution provides near bare metal performance (i.e., performance comparable to that of a physical machine) in the cloud, which is especially important for Big Compute applications."

This InfiniBand architecture helps support computationally intensive workloads that may have to scale across other machines, the blog post notes. When available, two customer offerings for HPC scenarios will be available from Microsoft. One configuration will include Windows Azure hardware with eight cores and 60 GB of RAM. The other configuration will have 16 cores and 120 GB of RAM.

Microsoft's Windows Azure blog post claims that a LINPACK benchmark test of the new hardware running Windows Server 2012 in virtual machines on top of Windows Azure ranked the system within the top 500 supercomputers. Performance was 151.3 teraflops on "8,065 cores with a 90.2 percent efficiency." Such computing power will be available to rent sometime in 2013, although Microsoft hasn't specified an exact date.

Microsoft also announced that five support options are now available for Windows Azure customers, and that its free Windows Azure support will end after December 31, 2012. The five support options, priced per month, are developer ($29), standard ($300), professional direct ($1,000) and premier (no price listed).

Incident response time becomes faster as the support price increases. The service-tier details are broken out by Microsoft here. Support is now offered in English, Chinese, Korean, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese, according to Microsoft's Windows Azure blog.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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