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Yesterday, at an HPC conference for the financial industry, Microsoft announced an update (R2) for Windows HPC Server 2008. Aside from offering new features that will take advantage of innovations in cloud computing, Microsoft claims that this update will make HPC Server 2008 less expensive to operate than Linux.

The reasoning, according to Microsoft, is that Linux requires much expensive expertise to use while the Windows interface is familiar to just about anybody in computing. Moreover, as Computer Reseller News reports, a Microsoft-funded study found that Windows HPC Server is 32-51% less expensive in the long-term than a Linux HPC solution.

There are several other features about which the new update of Microsoft HPC Server 2008 can boast. First, number crunching large data sets in Excel (a popular method with the financial computation industry) has become a lot more efficient.

This is partly due to a second major innovation: the ability to outsource computing to more powerful clusters from one’s Windows workstation. A series of calculations that would have taken two hours to complete before, writes HPC Wire, can now take less than two minutes.

Finally, the new update also takes advantage of cloud computing from the other direction: not one powerful HPC cluster assisting individual workstations, but rather many PCs volunteering their time to help compute a few data-intensive calculations.

This is the same idea as SETI@home or Einstein@home: any PC user can allow their computer to be used as part of a cloud to perform others’ calculations when it is not needed by the user herself.

With these impressive additions to Windows HPC Server 2008, Microsoft seeks to chip away at Linux’s lead in the HPC market.