Microsoft is bringing extra oomph to its cloud-computing service by teaming up with supercomputer company Cray.
The deal aims to deliver more high-performance computing power to Azure customers, especially those that manage massive sets of data used for artificial-intelligence technology. Cloud computing -- the business of renting computer power and other technology infrastructure -- has steadily become more widely used and advanced, but still has its limitations when it comes to dealing with especially complex modeling and simulations.
That's where Seattle-based Cray comes in. Its supercomputers are widely used by governmental agencies, and increasingly private businesses, to handle heavy-duty computing needs.
The partnership essentially means Azure and Cray customers can keep all their data in one place, and harness the power of both systems at once. Businesses that subscribe to the Cray service will have access to a dedicated, customized supercomputer that connects directly into an Azure data center.
"We can enable these customers to solve a new class of problems, more complex problems, and to do it in an efficient manner," said Barry Bolding, Cray's chief strategy officer.
Some of these problems involve advanced analytics for things like developing self-driving car technology or tailoring medical responses to individual patients.
Running some huge simulations can be done in about an hour on Cray supercomputers. Doing the same thing on a desktop computer would easily take a year, said Steve Conway, senior vice president at Hyperion Research.
The call for more high-powered computing is spreading through industries from energy to software.
"It's getting to be a particularly pronounced trend in the new world of artificial intelligence and machine learning," Conway said. "Those are monstrously difficult problems."
Microsoft Azure once played second fiddle to Amazon's AWS cloud-computing system when it came to high-performance computing. But the Redmond company focused on the issue about three years ago, Conway said, and has now more than caught up.
"Azure has already been on a bit of a tear in high-performance computing," he said.
By joining with Cray, Azure is reducing the onerous task companies face of moving huge sets of data from one system to another. Moving giant collections of data even 200 feet from one system to another can take weeks or months, Conway said.
Cray's XC and CS supercomputers will be available to Azure customers with the use of Cray Urika-XC analytics software.
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