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Windows supercomputer version delayed

Microsoft had hoped to deliver it by fall, but now says a final version won't arrive until early next year.

Microsoft said late Tuesday that it has pushed back the expected launch of a version of Windows designed for high-performance computer clusters.

A Microsoft programmer said last month that the company was aiming to have Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition ready in time for a launch at the SC05 supercomputing conference in November, with a beta, or test, version coming this summer. However, Microsoft said Tuesday that the launch will be delayed as the company responds to early customer reactions.

"To ensure this feedback is incorporated, Microsoft is now planning to deliver the first beta to customers in the second half of 2005 and the final release is scheduled for first half 2006," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail.

Microsoft also cautioned that it is not aiming as much for the type of supercomputer that makes the annual list of the 500 largest supercomputers. Rather, Microsoft said it is focused on the kinds of clusters that a department or even a single researcher might put together.

"Enterprise customers are increasingly in need of HPC (High Performance Computing) solutions for personal and departmental use, which is causing HPC to move from the traditional supercomputing centers found in academic and government sectors into the commercial markets, including engineering, life sciences and finance organizations," the Microsoft representative said.

Microsoft's plans for a supercomputer version of Windows were first reported by CNET News.com last May. In June, Microsoft confirmed its intent to deliver the specially tailored Windows version.

Microsoft has not announced how much it will charge for the Compute Cluster edition, but did say last month that additional computers, or nodes, of a cluster will be priced at some discount. The initial version is designed to replicate many of the features that would be offered if someone were clustering machines using Linux. In future versions, Microsoft plans to incorporate support for the company's .Net programming infrastructure, as well as allow for so-called "cycle harvesting" in which clusters can take advantage of the processing power of unused PCs on a network.