This new initiative is about enabling users to access compute cycles - lots of them, as in, HPC-class performance - via its Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. There are three specific areas of focus:
- Cloud: Bringing technical computing power to scientists, engineers and analysts through cloud computing to help ensure processing resources are available whenever they are neededreliably, consistently and quickly. Supercomputing work may emerge as a killer app for the cloud.
- Easier, consistent parallel programming: Delivering new tools that will help simplify parallel development from the desktop to the cluster to the cloud.
- Powerful new tools: Developing powerful, easy-to-use technical computing tools that will help significantly speed discovery. This includes working with customers and industry partners on innovative solutions that will bring our technical computing vision to life.
What this will do is open up what can be characterized as "supercomputing light" to a very broad group of users. There will be two main classes of customers who take advantage of this HPC-class access. The first will be those who need to augment their available capacity with access to additional, on-demand "burst" compute capacity. The second group is the broad base of users further down the pyramid. People who will never have a cluster, but may want to have the capability exposed to them in the desktop.
Whether this will make such traditional high-end users more like to postpone purchase of a new 4P server or cluster in favor of additional cloud capacity is another issue entirely, one which will be interesting to follow in the months to come.