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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Extreme Computing, Microsoft Style

October 29, 2009

Charged with tackling some of the most critical -- and most exciting -- computing challenges, Microsoft's new eXtreme Computing Group (XCG) has kept a low profile since being formed in June 2009. That will likely change, however, as the group reaches out to attain its goal of developing radical new approaches to ultra-scale and high-performance computing hardware and software across security, cryptography, operating-system design, parallel-programming models, cloud software, data center architectures, specialty hardware accelerators, and quantum computing.

"Our objective is to look at strategic needs and opportunities that cut across product groups and find technology solutions to those problems," says Dan Reed, VP of XCG.

XCG will tackle challenges such as cryptography and parallel-programming models with rapid, large-scale prototyping and testing. That testing will help it transfer new technologies to Microsoft partners and product teams. "It's not just 'let's look at this problem and figure out new alternatives,'" Reed says. "It's 'look at the problem, figure out some new alternatives, build some prototypes of those alternatives, validate them, and then push them into production.'"

Reed predicts that there will be a huge set of technology changes on the hardware level -- and even more to systems software and next-generation applications. Multicore issues will affect Windows and other business products, and XCG is helping to prepare those product teams to cope with the new reality. The group operates on a five- to seven-year time horizon, and, along the way, it will spin off technologies that have shorter-term significance, Reed says. For example, earlier this year, the team demonstrated a hardware/software prototype based on Intel's low-power Atom processors. An intelligent energy-management system could turn processors on/off automatically while still delivering performance, and XCG is working with the Windows Azure team to transfer the energy-management software it has developed.


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