Editor's Note: Microsoft Waves Wand At Supercomputing - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
06:40 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl

Editor's Note: Microsoft Waves Wand At Supercomputing

A little over a year ago, Bill Gates wrote a column for InformationWeek called "The Enduring Magic Of Software, Oct. 18, 2004." With all the innovation we've seen in the past 25 years, he surmised, some might think we're nearing the limits of what we can do with computer systems. PCs and other devices have permeated all parts of our business and personal lives, and tiny devices are among the most powerful. But Gates argued that we've really only scratched the surface. "We are only beginning to realize computing's potential," he wrote. "I believe that we're entering an era when software will fundamentally transform almost everything we do."

Some might argue that for Microsoft to succeed in the world of supercomputing--an area that Gates targeted with an aggressive strategy last week--will take a serious dose of magic. After all, this is Linux's domain; it's the stuff that powerful systems such as IBM's Blue Gene get credit for; Windows doesn't scale like that; it isn't material for the average business-computing user. Well, some of that's true. Linux is the incumbent. Many supercomputing practitioners at universities and research labs have long relied on the open-source/shareware world.

But don't count Microsoft or the potential for mainstream applications out just yet. The company hopes a forthcoming product, Windows Compute Cluster Server, will make inroads. While supercomputing clusters can help drive breakthroughs in science and medicine, Gates believes it also has ramifications for consumer-product design, finance, commerce, and more.

Whether Microsoft becomes a leader in supercomputing shouldn't really matter to anyone other than, say, Microsoft execs and shareholders. But Gates' multimillion-dollar program to harness the collaborative computing power (and brainpower) of universities and professors around the world in fields such as AIDS research is just plain super.

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Stephanie Stahl
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