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6/9/2006
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Ballmer: Windows HPC Edition To Steal Share From Linux

The Microsoft CEO says the company is ready to beat Linux in its core high-performance computing market base and that Linux has "peaked" as a competitive threat to Windows in the server market. One open-source consultant says Microsoft is whistling past the graveyard as it struggles to get Vista out the door.

The release of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 to manufacturing Friday will enable Microsoft to widen its lead over Linux, according to Microsoft executives.

On Friday, Microsoft announced that it will ship its first version of Windows Server for high performance computing (HPC) in August and make available evaluation copies to attendees of the company's Tech Ed 2006 in Boston next week.

It was originally expected to ship in the first half of 2006.

In a recent interview with CRN, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the Windows Compute Cluster 2003 and the next Windows 'Longhorn" server will enable Microsoft to take market share from Linux in its backyard.

"We have our Windows Compute Cluster Edition. We'll get back into high-performance computing, which, at the end of the day, is something like 30 percent of Linux servers," Ballmer said, acknowledging that Linux has greater share of the high performance computing on Intel-AMD platforms today.

"We've got the new Windows Server with fantastic improvements in Web serving, along with the Atlas technology for AJAX development," Ballmer told CRN. "I think we're in a place where we can grow share not relative to Linux but absolute. "

Ballmer said Linux is not gaining as much share against Windows as naysayers once predicted. The Linux desktop has gone nowhere and Linux server sales have peaked, he claimed.

"Four years ago, people wrote that we'd be wiped out by Linux. Four years later, how are they doing? They're not gaining share. Four years ago, we were supposed to be wiped out. We've not lost share to them--maybe we're down a point--and that can almost be all accounted for by the number of Linux servers Google's put in," Ballmer quipped.

According to IDC, unit growth of both Windows and Linux servers has slowed during the last four quarters but Linux has shown a bit more vulnerability " but to industry-wide consolidation, not to Windows per se. "Both platforms have been impacted by slowing growth rates, but the decline in Linux is more pronounced," said Matt Eastwood, an analyst at IDC. "This is particularly true when you factor in that the Windows ecosystem is more than three times the size of the Linux ecosystem on a unit basis today. One thing is clear, consolidation and virtualization is having an impact on the market and both Linux and Windows are being impacted."

According to IDC's study in 2005, of all VARs who sell, resell, or recommend software to their customers in the U.S., 31 percent have generated revenue from Linux-based solutions and 6 percent now support Linux as their primary operating system platform.

One open source consultant dismissed Ballmer's contention, and said Linux' momentum is not over.

"The early growth of Linux adoption was driven by the hardware cost savings that it enabled. If the growth has slowed it could be because many of those big-savings opportunities have been realized, but I don't think that implies that Linux has peaked at all," said David Gynn, a vice president at Optaros, an open source applications consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.

"I haven't seen the numbers Ballmer is citing but it is interesting that he's using sales numbers and not installs. It is premature for Microsoft to claim victory before they figure out when they will be able to ship Vista."

Microsoft is hoping to stimulate more growth for Windows against Linux with the release of Vista and Longhorn Server in 2007 and with the release of Compute Cluster edition this summer.

According to IDC, the high-performance and technical computing (HPTC) market grew roughly 24 percent in 2005 to reach a record $9.2 billion in revenue.

Microsoft's Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 is designed to bring many of Microsoft's ease-of-use and setup capabilities and integration benefits to the HPC market.

The Cluster Edition, for example, will feature prescriptive setup procedures to ease network configuration, Remote Installation Services and an integrated Job Scheduler can be accessed though the command-line interface or through APIs designed for managing cluster workloads.

It also features a job console for managing tasks and integration with Active Directory to offer end user and security management, Microsoft said.

It is also integrated with Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 for management and included support for Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 will allow Windows developers to develop "massively parallel" applications, Microsoft said.

Microsoft said it has enlisted numerous companies, research institutions and universities as early adopters of the computer cluster edition.

These include AREVA-Challenge in France, BAE Systems, Cornell University's Computational Biology Service Unit, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Northrop Grumman Corp., Petrobras, Queen's University of Belfast, Tokyo Institute of Technology's Global Scientific Information and Computing Center, the University of Cincinnati's Genome Research Institute and Virginia Tech's Computational Bioinformatics and Bioimaging Laboratory.

One Microsoft ISV is banking that partners and customers will deploy the Microsoft compute cluster edition to handle intense computational applications in a scaled-out clustered environment.

Voltaire, Billerica, Mass, also announced Friday availability of an InfiniBand-based switching solution and software stack to support Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.

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