French server manufacturer Bull has signed an agreement with Microsoft to install Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 (CCS) on its Novascale servers, allowing it to offer supercomputing clusters to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that don’t want to switch to Linux.
Manufacturers typically offer Linux on their server systems, promoting the cost savings that customers can make. Bull is taking the opposite tack.
In signing a deal with Microsoft, Bull hopes to seduce “the SMBs that don’t necessarily have the means to employ a Linux administrator or who, for one reason or another, are afraid of Linux,” said Olivier David, manager of software developer relations for Bull’s high-performance computing division.
The companies announced the deal on Thursday, during the Forum Fluent show in Paris, which is devoted to numerical simulation of fluid flow and thermal transfer. Bull, already present in the research sector, wants to “diversify by moving into the industrial market,” said David. It is targeting SMBs frustrated by the computing performance of their Windows workstations, but which lack the means to migrate to Linux. Bull offers them a server with the operating system and applications already installed and configured, “without the need for complex intervention by an administrator,” David said.
That’s the main difference with the systems running Linux because Bull is charging the same price for the Linux and Windows versions of its systems. The price is “15,000 to 20,000 [euros] for an entry-level system with four nodes, depending on the memory and the interconnection technology,” said David.
SMBs will base their choice on the operating system and the skills they have. A cluster running Windows will integrate with the other Windows systems on the company’s network. Windows CCS is a version of the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2003, adapted for clusters. “It’s limited to this application, so it’s a lot cheaper than the standard version,” said Eric Nataf, responsible for high-performance computing products at Microsoft France. “On the other hand, it includes special tools—for example for security, task management or cluster administration.”
Microsoft has already signed similar deals with other manufacturers. For them, it means they can preinstall the operating system and get help from Microsoft with the installation or the marketing. “That also allows them to hold joint discussions with software publishers,” said David. For Microsoft, the deal allows it to improve its profile in a market that’s mostly Linux-oriented; Bull’s Itanium servers will remain Linux only, for example. It will also give Microsoft a higher profile in France and Europe, Bull’s main markets.
-Olivier Rafal, Le Monde Informatique (France)
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