Microsoft has introduced an advanced cloud hardware upgrade known as ‘Azure Boost,' promising to substantially improve the performance across all forthcoming Azure instance types. The upgrade is focused on offloading server virtualization processes, a duty that typically falls to the hypervisor and host operating system, into tailor-made software and integrated hardware components.
Under the Hood: MANA and FPGA Integration
In a recent statement, Microsoft detailed that the Azure Boost system will significantly free up CPU resources for guest virtual machines. The result is a marked enhancement in overall system performance. Azure Boost employs a specialized network interface card, named the ‘Microsoft Azure Network Adapter‘ (MANA), which indeed comes equipped with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) aimed at accelerating network processes.
The MANA represents in-house engineering by Microsoft and is distinct from Pensando SmartNICs used in Azure or technology absorbed from the acquisition of SmartNIC-maker Fungible early in the year. With Azure Boost up and running, even now, on 17 instance types, its expansion to all future Azure VMs is confirmed, and there is also the potential for deployment to additional current VM types.
Performance Leap and Future Potential
The integration of MANA with Azure Boost significantly escalates performance metrics, as exemplified by the Ebsv5 instance type, which can now deliver up to 260K IOPS for Premium SSD storage, a steep climb from the previous 80K IOPS attained by Ev4-series VMs. The data throughput rate is another standout feature, hitting a remarkable 12.5GB/sec, and enabling an impressive 650K IOPS via accelerated storage processing and NVMe disk interfaces.
The Azure Marketplace has been updated to include machine images that integrate the MANA driver, compatible with a range of operating systems including various Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Debian, Oracle Linux, and multiple versions of Windows Server. By harnessing the power of Azure Boost, clients might find themselves in a position to downscale their VM requirements or lessen their VM fleet size due to significantly enhanced performance.
As the cloud computing landscape becomes progressively competitive, innovations like Azure Boost signal Microsoft's commitment to delivering technologically advanced solutions to its clientele. Azure Boost, while a fresh marketing term, signifies the ongoing pursuit of performance excellence in the realm of cloud services. While Microsoft's announcement did not convey all specifics, the promised capabilities of Azure Boost are anticipated to strengthen the provisioning and operation of cloud infrastructures globally.