High-performance: Windows-based supercomputers tackle mainstream business problems

As cluster-based high-performance computing becomes more affordable, more mainstream manufacturers are turning to the technology. Automotive and aerospace companies are using Microsoft's High-Performance Computing Server. One benefit is decreased problem-solving time. 
By Malcolm Wheatley, senior contributing editor May 12, 2009
Cluster computing capabilities from Microsoft helps NASA and Ferrari.
Cluster computing helps NASA and Ferrari.

When China used a ballistic missile to dispose of an obsolete weather satellite in January 2007, some world leaders saw that as a potentially threatening military exercise. But engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
They wondered whether any of the thousands of pieces of space debris from the blown up satellite might one day collide with an American satellite or the International Space Station.
To answer that question, NASA turned to Lanham, MD-based a.i. solutions , an aerospace engineering firm with expertise in advanced space mission analysis and orbital mechanics, whose other customers include Boeing and the U.S. Army Space Command.
The NASA engineers needed to calculate the route each piece of debris will follow as it orbits the earth over the next 20 years, a problem that normally would take months to solve. But a.i. solutions got an answer in three days by relying on an experimental cluster of six off-the-shelf, 64-bit dual-processor servers, tied together by Microsoft ’s Windows High-Performance Computing (HPC) Server software.
“A customer had mentioned the Microsoft high-performance computing technology, and we’d decided to do some research,” recalls Rand.
Once NASA understood how the debris from China’s satellite would behave, it was able to make small changes to the orbits of its own satellites to avoid any collisions.
Such stories are becoming increasingly common. Dawning Information Industry Co. Ltd., has a Windows HPC Server-powered clustered ranked 10th on the list.
As cluster-based high-performance computing becomes more affordable—its building blocks, after all, are off-the-shelf servers—more and more mainstream manufacturers are turning to the technology.
“High-performance computing is all about breaking a problem up into chunks, dividing it out among a group of computers, and then bringing it back together at the end,” he says.

Cluster computing helps Ferrari.

Italian auto manufacturer Ferrari is one such user, working with Microsoft in a partnership to test Microsoft’s latest high performance computing offering—Windows HPC Server 2008—with the stated intention of pushing the boundaries of automotive engineering, design and development.
“Ferrari is always looking for the most advanced technological solutions, and of course, the same applies for software and engineering,” notes Piergiorgio Grossi, head of information systems at Ferrari.
“We are always focused on scouting new technologies that can give us a competitive advantage.
– Malcolm Wheatley, senior contributing editor, www.mbtmag.com