Microsoft has launched what it claims to be the UK’s most powerful cloud services.
The M-Series virtual machines (VMs) in Azure can handle very large workloads that involve a lot of data. Microsoft is currently the only company to offer this level of cloud computing power in this country.
Elsewhere in the world, these VMs are being used by train company Trenitalia to analyse information in real-time, the city of Cape Town to run an emergency policing solution, and fleet management firm ARI to let customers track and report on every detail of its operation.
The M-series supports up to 128 virtual central processing units (vCPU) and between one and 3.8 tebibytes of RAM – a tebibyte is equal to 1,024 gigabytes – on a single VM. It also offers up to 20 terabytes of memory – the most offered by any public cloud.
Data can also be transferred between VMs at up to 30 gigabytes per second, making it easy for companies to back up files or replicate their databases.
The VMs are the only ones in the UK able to handle large workloads on the SAP HANA platform. In December, Microsoft expanded its partnership with enterprise software company SAP to help firms move to the cloud and digitally transform their business. Firms including Coca-Cola, Columbia Sportswear and Costco have already said the move will benefit their operations.
Microsoft has also announced Dv3 VMs in UK data centres. These are built using new technology, so can perform better and more efficiently, enabling Microsoft to pass these savings on to customers who store data and run apps in the cloud for their businesses.
“By unlocking more power from the underlying hardware, we are able to harness better performance and efficiency, resulting in cost savings that we are passing on to our customers,” said Jon Beck, Principle Program Manager at Microsoft.
They will cost up to 28 per cent less than the previous VMs – Dv2.
The Dv3 VMs use “hyper-threading technology” on Intel processors, which allows users to run several processes at once. Along with the new Ev3 VMs, they are some of the first to run on Windows Server 2016 hosts, and also boast nested virtualization – the ability to run a VM inside another VM.
The Dv3s offer up to 64 vCPUs and 256 gigabytes of RAM, while Ev3s offer 432GB of RAM, giving customers more computer memory to run larger workloads.
Microsoft has also announced B-series VMs, a new low-cost range that offers customers flexibility in how much Azure computer power they use.
Some people only need a small amount of cloud computing power to run their business, but they will see occasional spikes in demand that require more CPUs. The B-series is designed to meet the needs of these users, letting them build up Azure credits as they pay for low-level usage of Microsoft’s cloud service. These credits can then be exchanged for more computing power when those spikes in demand occur.
“These VM sizes allow you to pay and burst as needed, using only a fraction of the CPU when you don’t need it and burst up to 100 per cent of the CPU when you do need it,” said Corey Sanders, director of Compute at Azure. “This level control gives you extreme cost flexibility and flexible value.”
Finally, Microsoft has revealed that Notification Hubs will be available in its UK data centres.
This service lets users send push notifications (information in a pop-up box) to their customers regardless of which platform they are using – Windows, iOS, Android, Kindle or Baidu.
Notification Hubs can send messages to millions of mobile devices with one single process, and can be tailored to specific customers or everyone in a group, in their language.
NBC News uses the service to send breaking news alerts to consumers.
“We want breaking news alerts to reach our millions of users as fast as possible. That’s why we use Microsoft Azure,” said Andrew Locke, Vice-president of Mobile and Devices at NBC News.
Adam Wyss, senior software engineer at NBC News, added: “Microsoft Azure gives us a fast, easy development environment. Turnaround through Windows Azure is faster than we could achieve inside our existing infrastructure. That’s more cost effective, of course, but the even greater benefit is faster time-to-market. None of our competitors are standing still, and our ability to shave months off time-to-market is an important competitive advantage.
“We were extremely productive by using the Microsoft Azure Notification Hubs. There was only one hub to create, and now we have only one hub to maintain for all these platforms. Our choice of Microsoft Azure is proving very successful.”