Microsoft unleashes massive computing power in UK data centres

New Microsoft Azure services that make it easier to work with huge amounts of information have been launched in the UK.

G-Series, H-Series and N-Series virtual machines (VM), which allow developers to create multiple copies of their own computer to increase computing power, are now available in the company’s UK South data region.

This means Microsoft is the first hyperscale cloud provider offering VMs that can run graphics intensive workloads in the UK. It is also the first company to bring graphics processing units to data centres in this country.

Dark clouds and lightning over country landscape
The H-Series VM is designed for people working on data-intensive tasks, such as weather forecasting simulations

The H-Series VM is designed for people working on complex engineering and scientific tasks that feature a lot of data, such as computational fluid dynamics, crash simulations, seismic exploration and weather forecasting simulations. It will allow this work to be done smoothly and quickly, without the lag and slowdown that some computers and virtual machines suffer from.

These VMs will be available in six different sizes, all based on Intel E5-2667 V3 3.2 GHz (with turbo up to 3.5 GHz) processor technology, utilizing DDR4 memory and SSD-based local storage.

Sam Mahalingam, Chief Technology Officer at design and technology firm Altair Engineering, which uses Microsoft’s H-Series VMs, said: “We are excited about the introduction of new non-hyper-threaded compute and network optimised H-series VMs in Azure. We worked closely with the Microsoft Team to test our solutions for performance and scaling on the H-Series VMs. Based on the testing, we are confident that we can not only deliver high performance to our customers but also provide deep integration with the Azure environment to enable HPC cloud environments.”

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The N-Series VMs are powered by NVIDIA graphics processing units. The NC VMs can run deep learning training jobs, high-performance computer simulations, rendering, real-time data analytics, DNA sequencing, plus much more.

City of Hope, an independent research and treatment centre for cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases in Duarte, California, is using Azure NC VMs and high-performance computing to bring together physical and computer sciences, as well as mathematics, to develop ground-breaking methods to model biological processes. Professor Nagarajan Vaidehi, from the centre’s Department of Molecular Immunology, and her team were able to use Microsoft’s cloud services to study the dynamics of proteins in just a few days, compared with a month using traditional CPU-based machines. This made the drug design much more efficient.

The G-Series VM uses the Intel Xeon processor E5 v3 family, “which is ideal for your most demanding applications”, Microsoft said in a blog post. Customers can get up to 32 virtual central processing unit (CPU) cores, 448 gigabytes of memory, and 6.14 terabytes of local Solid State Drive (SSD) space.

Row of servers in data centre
Microsoft opened its UK data centres in September last year

Ravi Chandran, founder and Chief Technology Officer of analytics firm XtremeData, which uses Azure, said: “The new G-series on Azure offers unparalleled performance and scale: top-end CPUs coupled to the largest memory, fastest network fabric and the most local SSD capacity of any virtualised hardware in the public cloud. The simplicity of provisioning and managing clusters on Azure is well-matched by the simplicity of using XtremeData’s database engine, dbX: just load data and start analyzing in standard SQL. Deploying the scale-out dbX engine on this infrastructure will offer customers the fastest, most scalable and least expensive Big Data analytics platform on the market.”

The G-Series, H-Series and N-Series VMs are just the latest services to be made available to companies using Microsoft’s data centres in the UK, which offer reliability and performance while keeping customers’ information in this country.

Graham Hill, Senior Director of Business Strategy at Microsoft, said: “Microsoft’s UK data centres offer unrivalled opportunities for companies of all sizes in this country to unlock their growth potential. We are seeing huge demand for our cloud services, as firms digitally transform to meet the needs of their customers. We are delighted to announce the release of the G-Series, H-Series and N-Series services in the UK, which are perfect for anyone wanting to unlock the business possibilities behind large amounts of information.”

Microsoft Azure regions
Microsoft Azure regions

Microsoft opened its UK data centres in September last year. Since then, thousands of customers, including the Ministry of Defence, the Met Police, parts of the NHS and Centrica, have signed up to take advantage of the sites.

The cloud regions in the UK – Microsoft is the first global cloud provider to offer a complete and trusted cloud solution from data centres in this country – are now part of one the world’s largest online storage infrastructures, supported by more than 100 data centres globally. These hold over 30 trillion pieces of data and are backed by billions of dollars in investment since 1989.