Microsoft Ships Prerelease of Compute Cluster Server

Microsoft announced Monday it is shipping the first "release candidate" or RC for its long-awaited Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.

The server, due in June, is Microsoft’s first entry into the high-performance computing market. Microsoft initially planned to ship the product last year, but retargeted it for the first half of 2006 last November.

When it does ship, the software will only run on systems that support Intel's and AMD's 64-bit memory addressing technologies.

The system is intended for use in clusters of inexpensive machines that work simultaneously on the same problem. The server's base code is Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. Microsoft released Beta 2 in mid-November.

In Redmondian parlance, RCs are the last step before "release to manufacturing" or RTM. The company typically sends out the first RC -- and sometimes multiple ones -- when the code officially ends beta test and goes into a final process of quality testing. If no "showstopper" bugs which absolutely have to be fixed emerge during the RC phase, the code is cleared for RTM. Sometimes it takes more than one or two RC releases before the code is deemed finished. However, Microsoft remains confident of fulfilling its first half delivery promise.

"[The RC's release] means that Windows Cluster Server 2003 is on target to be released to manufacturers by the end of June," says a Microsoft statement. The company also claims that more than 30 customers are already using the beta code for number crunching.

Microsoft has offered failover clustering to support high-availability computing for years. However, this is the company’s first foray into the world of high-performance computing.

For a recent look at Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 Beta 2 in Redmond magazine, go here. To download the RC code, go here.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.