Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

By George Leopold

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to the web site Crunchbase, a Microsoft investment arm previously provided Cycle Computing with “non-equity assistance.”

Microsoft said Tuesday (Aug. 15) the deal would advance its “big compute” workloads efforts that provides “on-demand power and infrastructure necessary to run massive workloads at scale without the overhead,” Jason Zander, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Azure, noted in a blog post.

The company is betting the cloud orchestration deal with help it capitalize on AI, deep learning, Internet of Things and other computing intensive jobs that are expected to increase demand for running large workloads at scale.

The partners said Tuesday (Aug. 15) the deal would combine Cycle Computing’s orchestration technology for managing Linux and Windows computing and data workloads with Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing infrastructure.

Based in Stamford, Conn., Cycle Computing was launched in 2005 by co-founders Rob Futrick and Jason Stowe. “We had the rare opportunity to invent and lead a product category, Cloud HPC,” Cycle Computing CEO Stowe noted in a separate blog post announcing the deal.

Zander said the acquisition would combine Azure public cloud infrastructure such as GPU processing capabilities and support for Infiniband networking with Cycle Computing’s orchestration and HPC heritage. The combination would “enhance our support of Linux HPC workloads and make it easier to extend on-premise workloads to the cloud,” Zander asserted. Microsoft is the only major cloud provider currently supporting Infiniband.

The “big computing” deal would also seek to leverage Microsoft’s recently announced plans to add GPU instances based on Nvidia’s Pascal generation of graphics processors to its Azure cloud. Azure currently includes Nvidia M60 and K80 GPU instances, and the cloud vendor said it would add P40- and P100-based virtual machines later this year.

Google, IBM and other public cloud providers have also moved to integrate deploy Nvidia’s Pascal GPU into their cloud infrastructure as customers run compute intensive workloads.

Those upgrades target AI and deep learning workloads as well as HPC workloads such as DNA sequencing and Monte Carlo simulations. Those capabilities mesh with Cycle Computing’s current customer base that includes biomedical researchers and financial firms that use its cloud HPC software and orchestration tools to access cloud-based computing resources.

Cycle Computing, which in the past has had strong ties to Microsoft’s cloud rival, Amazon Web Services, has also played a key role in transforming HPC technology as a provider of software that links users to the cloud.

“HPC workloads are always changing and perhaps the definition of the HPC along with it, but I think what’s really happening is the customer demographics are changing,” Tim Carroll, head of ecosystem development and sales, told HPCwire earlier this year. “It’s a customer demographic defined not by the software or the system, but the answer.”

 

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