Published: October 1st, 2018

ORLANDO – At Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference this week, the company made a series of announcements that reinforce its commitment to Azure and the cloud for pretty much everything. In fact, joked corporate vice-president of Azure, Julia White, the “Book of News” in which the company consolidated all of its news should have been called the “Book of Azure News.”

Of the 82 press releases, 53 had the name “Azure” in their subjects, and several others referred to Azure features. Here are a few highlights:

The H-Series Azure virtual machines for high performance computing (HPC) received two new configurations: HB-series VMs optimized for applications driven by memory bandwidth, such as fluid dynamics, explicit finite element analysis, and weather modeling, featuring 60 AMD EPYC 7551 processor cores, 4 GB of RAM per CPU core, and no hyperthreading, that offer more than 260 GB/sec of memory bandwidth, which Microsoft says is 33 per cent faster than x86 alternatives and 2.5x faster than what most HPC customers have in their datacenters today. And lastly, an HC-series VMs optimized for applications driven by dense computation, such as implicit finite element analysis, reservoir simulation, and computational chemistry. They feature 44 Intel Xeon Platinum 8168 processor cores, 8 GB of RAM per CPU core, and no hyperthreading, and support Intel’s ecosystem of software tools such as the Intel Math Kernel Library, as well as featuring an all-cores clock speed greater than 3 GHz for most workloads. Both series will be supported by Azure CycleCloud and Azure Batch.

Julia White, corporate vice president, Azure, and Yuri Sebregts, chief technology officer, Shell Global, at Microsoft Ignite 2018. Photo from Microsoft Ignite.

HB-series VMs will initially be available later this year in the South Central US Azure region, while HC-series VMs will initially be available later this year in the West US 2 Azure region. Both will be rolled out to other regions over time.

Windows Virtual Desktop will provide a multi-user Windows 10 VDI experience optimized for Office 365 ProPlus, delivered on Azure. It will also provide free Extended Security Updates with Windows 7 virtual machines to allow customers more time to make the transition to Windows 10.

Windows Virtual Desktop will be a platform that can be easily extended and enriched by partners through the Azure Marketplace. Those already participating include Citrix, CloudJumper, FSLogix, Lakeside Software, Liquidware, People Tech Group, and ThinPrint. It will also be available to Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers to offer to their customers. Storage and compute for the VMs will be charged through the customer’s Azure subscription.

No date has been announced for the public preview, though customers can sign up to be notified when it’s available.

Security announcements

Three security announcements furthered Microsoft’s efforts to keep its customers safe. First, it announced password-less sign in for customers using Azure Active Directory through Microsoft Authenticator, which replaces passwords with multi-factor authentication involving the user’s phone, plus their fingerprint, face, or PIN.

Next it announced the extension of Microsoft Secure Score, a dynamic report card for cybersecurity. It scores a company’s security posture, and offers hints for improvement. At Ignite, Microsoft announced that it now covers all of Microsoft 365, and has also been expanded to provide a Secure Score for hybrid cloud workloads in the Azure Security Center.

Finally, it announced Microsoft Threat Protection, an integrated experience for detection, investigation, and remediation across endpoints, email, documents, identity, and infrastructure in the Microsoft 365 admin console. This will, it said, let analysts save thousands of hours as they automate the more mundane security tasks.