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Microsoft munches super startup carcass

Can you say Visual Studio for HPC?

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ISC was founded in 2004 by Cornelius Peterson, a serial entrepreneur who sought to crack the parallel programming problem based on research done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, Peterson had tackled system-on-a-chip designs with a company called NetSilicon, which was founded in 1984 and went public in the 1989.

In January 2007, the Waltham, Massachusetts, company brought in Bill Blake as the company's chief executive officer, bumping Peterson up to executive chairman. Blake was senior vice president of development at data warehousing appliance maker Netezza most recently, and before that, he was vice president of Compaq's HPC unit (really Digital AlphaServer stuff with some x86 clustering thrown in) prior to that.

Whatever plans that ISC had for growth, the venture capitalists who pumped a reported $18m into ISC since 2005 - Ascent Venture Partners, CommonAngels, Flagship Ventures, Fletcher Spaght Associates, and Rock Maple Ventures - appeared to run out of patience as ISC ran out of money.

The fit with Microsoft is good because the two companies were already working together. Last September, as Microsoft was getting Windows HPC Server 2008 out the door, ISC was demonstrating a preview version of Star-P for Windows HPC Server, and the company said it planned to get the code out the door by the end of the year. Star-P was originally developed to deploy applications on Linux-based clusters.

Faenov said in the Microsoft blog announcement that Blake would be taking a job at Microsoft's New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge, outside of Boston, and would be "bringing over a team of industry leading experts on parallel and high performance computing that will join the Microsoft team."

Microsoft has already begun planning for the integration of ISC code into future versions of Microsoft products, and it says it will continue to maintain the current release of Star-P. If you look at the FAQ put out by Microsoft concerning the acquisition, which is here, you will discover that Star-P version 2.9 - which was released into a controlled beta a few months ago - is not going to be launched as a product and that there will be no releases beyond the current Star-P version 2.8, which came out earlier this year.

<p.Moreover, Microsoft is no longer selling new licenses the Star-P tools, but customers who have active maintenance have the right to upgrade to version 2.8. Microsoft will support Star-P version 2.8 until the end of existing contracts or through December 31, 2010 (whichever one is the longer term).

The most obvious thing for Microsoft to do is to rejigger Star-P as a plug in for its Visual Studio development tools and plunk the parallelization of those applications and their runtime out there on Windows HPC Server 2008. Microsoft said that it will lay out its plans for weaving the Star-P assets into its products and when this will happen "over the coming months." ®

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