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Azure rolls out Ampere Arm-based VMs, touting large energy efficiency, performance gains

Microsoft has joined Oracle and Google in now offering Ampere Altra Arm-based VMs to customers.

Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) running on Arm-based processors are Generally Available (GA) as of September 1, with the VMs "engineered to efficiently run scale-out, cloud-native workloads" Microsoft said.

Pricing varies depending on OS, region and VM series and can be seen here.

The Azure Arm VMs include support for Linux OS distributions Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Enterprise Linux, CentOS, and Debian, with further support for Alma Linux and Rocky Linux coming soon.

Microsoft said at its April 4 public preview that the Azure VMs running on the Ampere Altra Arm-based processors offer 50% better price-performance than comparable x86-based VMs for scale-out workloads, suggesting that use cases were likely to span everything from web servers, application servers, open-source databases, cloud-native as well as rich .NET applications, Java applications, gaming servers to media servers.

A key focus for many in an energy market crisis will be cutting energy consumption.

We see companies using Arm-based architectures as a way of reducing both cost and energy consumption. It’s a huge step forward for those looking to develop with Linux on Azure. We are pleased to partner with Microsoft to offer Ubuntu images,” said Alexander Gallagher, Vice President of Public Cloud at Canonical.

"We know that many Arm applications will also be open source and cloud-native, and that’s why we’ve included support for these new virtual machines in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) from the start. Today we’re actively deploying updates across the Azure fleet to also make AKS support for Arm nodes generally available. These deployments will be made region by region and are expected to be fully available within two weeks" said Paul Nash, VP, Azure Compute Platform -- UK South and UK West are among the regions currently GA.

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The family of Azure Arm VMs include:

  • Dpsv5 series, with up to 64 vCPUs and 4GiBs of memory per vCPU up to 208 GiBs,
  • Dplsv5 series, with up to 64 vCPUs and 2GiBs of memory per vCPU up to 128 GiBs, and
  • Epsv5 series, with up to 32 vCPUs and 8GiBs of memory per vCPU up to 208 GiBs.

All the new virtual machine sizes support up to 40 Gbps of networking bandwidth; Standard SSDs, Standard HDDs, Premium SSDs, and Ultra Disk Storage can all be attached to the Azure Arm VMs.

An early adopter was Avanade, whose global Azure platform services lead Steve Hunter said in a canned comment that the new Azure Arm VMs offered "great price performance value for many cloud-native workloads and scale-out scenarios, and the low power consumption per ARM core will enable Avanade to deliver solutions which meet clients’ sustainability goals by further reducing their carbon footprint."

Microsoft noted that outside the data centre "until now, developers and software-provider partners building for Windows on Arm devices have had to build and test their software on physical devices or resort to cross-compilation and inefficient emulation solutions" adding that "to support their work, we’ve made Insider Preview releases of Windows 11 Pro and Enterprise available to run on Arm-based Azure VMs."

Whilst AWS has built out its own Arm-based chips to underpin its Graviton Arm-based cloud instances, Microsoft has opted to power its Arm-based VMs with Ampere Altra chips. It's not alone. The fabless Santa Clara-based chipmaker has also won the custom of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Google Cloud.

As Ampere notes, the Arm-based server ecosystem has rapidly matured over the last few years with open-source Cloud Native software stacks extensively tested and deployed on Ampere Altra-based servers: "For example, Ampere runs over 135 popular applications across 5 different cloud native infrastructures to ensure that our customers have confidence in the Ampere software environment across the marketplace."

Its solutions site features the results of this test regression suite.

See also: NVIDIA promised to protect Arm’s open licensing model for just 5 years, warns CMA in bombshell report