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3/2/2010
03:09 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Microsoft Ties Supercomputing Into Cloud Data Centers

Microsoft's increasingly aggressive stance in the cloud-computing infrastructure business now includes a joint effort with supercomputer heavyweight Cray Inc. to accelerate the development of next-generation data centers that offer not only greater performance but also reduced TCO.

Microsoft's increasingly aggressive stance in the cloud-computing infrastructure business now includes a joint effort with supercomputer heavyweight Cray Inc. to accelerate the development of next-generation data centers that offer not only greater performance but also reduced TCO.Saying he is excited to be working with Microsoft, Cray vice-president of custom engineering Chuck Morreale said in a press release that "the results of the project have the potential to deliver significant cost savings for operating a cloud-computing data center."

And Microsoft's Christian Belady, director of hardware architecture for the company's Extreme Computing Group, said his team's goal "is to work with partners such as Cray to accelerate changes in systems design for next-generation data centers," according to the press release.

It traditional terms, the Microsoft-Cray alliance is an unlikely one: for 30 years, Microsoft has been synonymous with the rise and global proliferation of the PC; and over the same period, Cray has been among the world leaders in research and design of supercomputing technologies and systems.

But with the rise of cloud computing in the past few years and Microsoft's increasing commitment to becoming a leader in the burgeoning field, the unusual partnership could work out well for both companies. For Cray, in spite of its vaunted technical excellence at the high end of the computational spectrum, the company's commercial track record doesn't come close to matching its engineering achievements.

And for Microsoft, its desire to become a player in the burgeoning field for what Belady calls "next-generation data centers" makes the connection with Cray not just opportunistic but strategic: if Microsoft's "Extreme Computing Group" is looking for perspectives that are truly extreme and not just the same old stuff with a little sparkly drizzle on top, the big brains at Cray are likely a great place to start.

Microsoft doesn't have much experience in those types of environments, but Cray claims in its press release that such environments are its specialty:

Cray is an innovation-driven company, and the custom engineering group provides customers with the ability to leverage Cray's research and development expertise and more than 25 years of broad supercomputing experience to develop unique solutions when currently available technology will not achieve a customer's requirements.

This match-up has the potential to deliver a lot of value to both participants and perhaps even more importantly to the customers who stand to benefit down the road from the enhanced innovation that the Cray-Microsoft supercomputing project could very well deliver.

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