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Microsoft's entry into the world of supercomputers will help push the technology beyond government and academic departments and towards business users, the company's head of server and tools claimed today.

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of server and tools for Microsoft, announced the public availability of the beta version of Windows Compute Cluster 2003 at the vendor's conference in Barcelona today, saying it will take on Linux and Unix in their traditional homeland - very high-end machines and groups of machines. The company is working with more than 20 companies to create applications to run on Windows Cluster.

Speaking after his keynote speech, Muglia said: "This is for any workload which needs high-power computing. We are seeing a transition from government and academic use to a broader market - to bring it into the mainstream. The sweet spot is not for really big machines but in the range of 4 to 64 way machines."

Muglia said the main markets targeted would be oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, financial services and universities. Such machines run intensive tasks like modelling

Speaking without apparent irony Muglia said: "We've spent some time talking to Independent Software Vendors recently and the software community welcomes the arrival of a consistent environment to this area."

He might be right but he might also have a fight on his hands - such academic and research units are usually staffed not by Linux enthusiasts but Linux obsessives. Academic ideals of peer-review and openess have further helped Linux gain ground. This is a new and not necessarily friendly market for Microsoft to join.

To support its move Microsoft announced "a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment in the academic community". It is bankrolling the establishment of ten institutes for High-Performance Computing with universities including Stuttgart(Germany), Southampton(UK) and Nizhini Novgorod State University(Russia).

Is the arrival of Windows really what cluster computing needs? Let us know what you think at the usual address.®

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