Microsoft has finished work on a version of Windows for high-performance computing (HPC), it announced Friday.With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, which is being released to manufacturing this week, Microsoft aims to compete against Unix and Linux to run server clusters in compute-intensive environments, such as those running multiple simultaneous transactions or computations involving large amounts of data. Microsoft first announced plans to offer a server OS for HPC in May 2004. Initially the company said Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 would be made available late last year, but it then pushed back the release date until the first half of 2006. With its release to manufacturing Friday, the OS should reach customers by August, said John Borozan, group product manager for the Windows Server Division at Microsoft.Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft\u2019s Server and Tools Business, will discuss the new OS at Microsoft\u2019s Tech-Ed 2006 user conference next week in Boston. The company will provide evaluation versions of the OS to conference attendees.Borozan said clusters of servers that deliver high-performance computing "tend to be fairly scarce resources" because of the high cost and complexity of installing and maintaining them. With Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Microsoft hopes in the next five years to give "every researcher and scientist access to supercomputing power from their desk," he said.The company also is looking to score new Windows Server business in a market dominated by Unix, an effort analysts have said is an uphill battle. Microsoft has in the past several years watched Linux make headway in the low end of the server market, where Windows has traditionally had its most success.Microsoft is charging a one-time licensing fee of $496 per node, with one node representing four processor cores, for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Borozan said. The pricing includes both the OS and Microsoft Compute Cluster Pack, a combination of interfaces, utilities and management infrastructure.Early-adopter customers of the OS have run hundreds of nodes on the software, but Borozan said he expects most customers to run between four and 64 nodes on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.-Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Related Links:\n\nMicrosoft: Windows Antipiracy Tool Not Spyware\n\nMicrosoft Still Working on Tiny Haiku PC\n\nMicrosoft, Qwest Expand Partnership With Web Security PactThis article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page.\u00a0For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.