Microsoft Rolls Out Faster Azure Virtual Machines

Microsoft targets high-performance cloud workloads with new D-Series virtual machines that leverage solid-state drives and massive amounts of memory.


Microsoft is extending the benefits of gigabytes' worth of RAM and flash storage to Azure customers who are looking to squeeze more performance out of their cloud workloads.

Kenaz Kwa, program manager of Azure Compute Runtime, announced D-Series, a new type of virtual machine (VM) that can help organizations make short work of big cloud workloads for customers in the U.S., European and select Asian service areas. D-Series VMs "offer up to 112 GB in memory with compute processors that are approximately 60 percent faster than our A-Series VM sizes," he said in a Sept. 22 blog post.

Added to the mix is a solid-state drive (SSD) storage foundation, said Kwa. "Even better, these sizes have up to 800 GB of local SSD disk for blazingly fast reads and writes."

Data center operators are increasingly adding SSDs to their data storage environments as a means of providing brisk application performance and responsive cloud services. Fast-growing cloud startup DigitalOcean is attracting both customers and prominent venture capitalists for its low-cost, SSD-based cloud server plans.

For Microsoft, the new D-Series offering represents a new means of attracting enterprise workloads.

"The new sizes offer an optimal configuration for running workloads that require increased processing power and fast local disk I/O. These sizes are available for both Virtual Machines and Cloud Services," informed Kwa.

D-Series instances are split into two categories: General Purpose and High Memory. General Purpose plans, intended for "websites, small-to-medium databases, and everyday applications," start at $0.171 per hour for a D1 instance with a single virtual core, 3.5GB of RAM and 50GB of SSD storage, according to a Microsoft pricing page. The range-topping D4 plan leverages eight virtual cores, 28GB of RAM and 500GB of SSD storage for $1.368 per hour.

D-Series High Memory plans are suitable for memory-intensive workloads, such as large databases and high-throughput applications. Prices start at $0.403 per hour for two virtual cores, 14GB of RAM and 100GB of SSD storage and can climb to $2.611 per hour for 16 virtual cores, 112GB of RAM and a whopping 800GB of SSD-based storage capacity.

Microsoft is also planning lower-priced versions of D-Series instances, which the company describes as an "economical option for development workloads, test servers, and other applications that don't require load balancing, auto-scaling, or memory-intensive virtual machines." Prices start at $0.14 per hour.

D-Series SSD storage is set up as a local temporary drive, explained Kwa. "This high-speed local disk is best used for workloads that replicate across multiple instances, like MongoDB, or can leverage this high I/O disk for a local and temporary cache, like SQL Server 2014's Buffer Pool Extensions," he wrote.

"Note, these drives are not guaranteed to be persistent," cautioned Kwa. "Thus, while physical hardware failure is rare, when it occurs, the data on this disk may be lost, unlike your OS disk and any attached durable disks that are persisted in Azure Storage."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...