Azure courts DaaS with embiggened GPU-powered instances

Redmond's hostility to cloud desktops eases a little, at least for graphics-heavy apps

Cloud desktop

Microsoft's taken the wraps of some new, GPU-infused, Azure compute instances that it's aiming at heavy compute users and the emerging desktop-as-a-service market.

The NC series of instances is aimed at those who like to add a little GPU grunt to their computing, so puts the Tesla K80 in harness with either six, 12 or 18 Xeon E5-2690 v3 CPUs. Microsoft says its used discrete device assignment (DDA) on its servers, so you get “close to bare-metal performance” on the GPUs.

The instances on offer in the NC series are:

 

NC6

NC12

NC24

Cores

6

(E5-2690v3)

12

(E5-2690v3)

24

(E5-2690v3)

GPU

1 x K80 GPU (1/2 Physical Card)

2 x K80 GPU (1 Physical Card)

4 x K80 GPU (2 Physical Cards)

Memory

56 GB

112 GB

224 GB

Disk

380 GB SSD

680 GB SSD

1.44 TB SSD

There's also an NV series aimed at those who want to use GPUs for visualisation. The same Xeons are offered, in the same numbers, but with Tesla M60 GPUs providing the graphical grunt.

The NV series offers the following configurations.

 

NV6

NV12

NV24

Cores

6

(E5-2690v3)

12

(E5-2690v3)

24

(E5-2690v3)

GPU

1 x M60 GPU (1/2 Physical Card)

2 x M60 GPU (1 Physical Card)

4 x M60 GPU (2 Physical Cards)

Memory

56 GB

112 GB

224 GB

Disk

380 GB SSD

680 GB SSD

1.44 TB SSD

All very nice instances, to be sure. But also interesting instances, because one of Redmond's launch partners is Teradici, purveyor of the PCoIP protocol for delivering desktops over the wire. PCoIP is enabled on these new instances, which Microsoft and Teradici say means it will be possible to run desktop virtualisation for graphics-intensive apps like AutoCAD and Adobe Premier Pro.

Which makes these instances rather more interesting than just another round of embiggened servers for hire, not least because Microsoft has generally been less-than-enthusiastic about desktop-as-a-service, imposing odd licensing conditions on service providers wanting to offer cloudy desktops. That Microsoft is even mentioning sees these new instances as a way of doing cloudy desktops is therefore notable.

The new instance types are in preview for now, and only in Azure's South Central region. Microsoft expects other regions will come aboard before the instance types become generally available by year's end. ®


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