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Making a business case for Windows HPC

    Question

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    There’s a vast, untapped resource available at my company which our CAE team would like to leverage: 32bit “business-class” desktop systems.  The ability to effectively utilize this resource would significantly strengthen the business case for standardizing on the Windows HPC platform.

    Our company has tens of thousands of these systems running WinXP32 (soon to be Vista32) with no plans of migration to 64bit OS in the near-term.  Although our CAE team has a pool of dedicated cluster nodes, leverage other existing systems as auxiliary compute nodes during off-hours (nights/weekends) could dramatically increase productivity.  Neither dual-booting nor counting on an eventual move to 64bit are viable options.

    Are there any plans to release a service that would allow standard 32bit desktop systems to act as part-time cluster nodes?  We understand that the 32bit nodes would be unable to run codes that require 64bit hosts and those jobs would have to be managed accordingly.  However, there are many types of code that would run on these systems without impacting the primary console user if the service were designed properly.  Although each of these low-end nodes individually would contribute far less than a dedicated node, together they could provide significant gains.

    One possible implementation would be as follows:  Installing a WinHPC node service on each of the 32bit desktop systems.  This service reports the client’s availability and capability to the head node.  When assigned a task, the necessary software to run the job is delivered using Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization.  The local WinHPC node service launches and monitors the job, pushing it into the background (by varying degrees) based on the needs of the primary console user.  When the job is completed, the WinHPC node service completes the transaction with the head node.

    Looking for some feedback from the experts on this type of strategy, thanks!

    Friday, June 13, 2008 10:19 PM

Answers

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    Unfortunately Microsoft doesn't have any stated plans to release a Desktop-Cycle-Stealing system like the one that you are describing.  It is certainly on our radar as a potential feature for a future version/product out of the HPC team.  There are some 3rd-party products which enable this kind of thing, including products like Digipede and Condor, though all of course have their problems (since this is quite a complicated area).

     

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Josh

    Saturday, June 14, 2008 1:23 AM