Microsoft Azure cloud computing customers that would like to tap into true supercomputing power have a new option thanks to an exclusive partnership between Cray and Microsoft, the companies announced Monday.
Cray will make its Cray XC and Cray CS supercomputers available in a few Microsoft Azure datacenters, although it’s not clear from either a press release or a Microsoft blog post when those capabilities will come online or how much they will cost. When they do, Azure customers will be able to select the machines as an option in their cloud computing strategies for artificial intelligence research or complex data modeling, the companies said.
Most customers don’t require that much performance in their day-to-day computing needs, but Cray’s supercomputers can be very important to companies working on pharmaceutical research or weather simulations, to name a few examples. They’re also very expensive, and having access to that level of computing power on a rental basis could tempt Azure customers to try a few workloads on the hardware that wouldn’t have otherwise justified buying one of the machines, which can easily run into the millions of dollars.
Seattle’s Cray was once the standard for high-performance computing, but has struggled a bit over the last few years and laid off 14 percent of its workforce in July. It announced a “supercomputing-as-a-service” deal with Boston’s Markley earlier this year, but the Azure deal gives it a much larger pool of potential customers to reach.
On Microsoft’s end, the partnership gives it another unique selling point to current and potential cloud customers. The two companies, based on opposite sides of Lake Washington, will ensure that Cray’s supercomputers will work with several key Microsoft Azure services including Azure Virtual Machines and the Microsoft AI Platform, they said.