Azure August Roundup: New high-performance compute instances and more

PowerShell has gone open source and Azure Stack is on its second tech preview, too

August was a slow month for tech news, but Microsoft continued to update its Azure cloud platform with a variety of new features, including a new type of instance for high-performance computing. Here's the breakdown of all the features you need to know about:

A new instance type powered by Nvidia Tesla GPUs

Microsoft announced the private beta of a set of new compute instance types to power applications that need a lot of parallel processing. The new N-series virtual machines are powered by Nvidia's Tesla GPUs and built for high-performance computing.

The VMs come in two types, called the NC and NV series.

The NC-series instances are built for compute-focused workloads using CUDA or OpenCL. They're powered by Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs, with the most powerful instance getting 24 processor cores, 4 GPUs, 224GB of RAM and 1.44TB of solid-state storage.

NV-series instances are built for graphics-intensive visualization workloads like encoding and rendering. They're powered by Nvidia Tesla M60 GPUs.

All that power comes at a price. Even with a preview discount, the most powerful N-series VMs are the priciest instance type Microsoft offers in its South Central US region, which is the only one that has them available during the beta.

Azure Stack's 2nd tech preview starts rolling out

Microsoft announced that it's starting to roll out the second technical preview of its Azure Stack private cloud software to a hand-picked set of users, with a public beta of that version of the software coming later this year. It's hot on the heels of the company's announcement in July that Azure Stack will only run on certain converged hardware, not a broad swath of servers.

The company also put out a video (embedded below) that explains some of the thinking behind that decision.

During Microsoft's Ignite conference in Atlanta, the company will be showing off some of the new hardware that will run Azure Stack, which is being built by partners Lenovo, Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

PowerShell goes open source, lands on Linux and Mac OS X

While this isn't strictly speaking Azure news, one of Microsoft's biggest cloud-focused announcements in the past month was that its PowerShell scripting tool is going open source and cross-platform. That means PowerShell experts on Windows can take their skills to Linux, and Linux users have a new tool to manage computers or VMs that also works with Microsoft operating systems.

In the future, Microsoft plans to make it possible to remotely manage both Linux and Windows computers using PowerShell, meaning it would be possible to control a homogeneous fleet of cloud instances using Microsoft's scripting language.

Azure Backup gets alerting and monitoring

Microsoft launched a public beta of a feature that lets users see a single dashboard of all the Azure Backup jobs they have from on-premises machines and Azure virtual machines. Users can filter jobs based on job type, what type of machine they're coming from, the status of the job and the jobs' start and end times.

Users can also get alerts from all the backup jobs they have set up. That means they'll be able to see when things are going wrong and get emails about incidents that they may need to worry about.

It's all aimed at making it easier for administrators to monitor the health and progress of the backups they oversee.

That's a wrap for this month, folks, but stay tuned -- Microsoft Ignite is just a few weeks away, and the company is sure to have a bunch of Azure news there.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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