Cray and Microsoft announce alliance bringing supercomputing to Azure

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The two companies have formed an alliance to cater for enterprises that need access to high performance, distributed working environments to keep ahead of the curve, but which don't have either the desire of the funds to buy a supercomputer outright.

This is a noteworthy deal because Cray has been regarded for decades as the leading provider of supercomputing systems.

Unlike most Azure compute resources, which are typically shared between customers, the Cray supercomputers will be dedicated resources.

The two hope to succeed in their quest to offer dedicated Cray supercomputing systems in Microsoft Azure datacenters and that is expected to move quite a long way towards enabling customers run AI, simulate workloads at unprecedented scale and above all seamlessly connect to the Azure cloud.

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Customers in select Microsoft data centres will be able to use Cray XC or CS series supercomputers with attached Cray ClusterStor storage systems in Azure to run HPC and AI applications alongside other applications directly on the Azure network.

Peter Ungaro, Cray president and chief executive, says the partnership will introduce Cray supercomputers to a whole new class of customers who need the most advanced computing resources to expand their problem solving capabilities, but want the capability available in the cloud. These Cray systems can integrate with a few different Azure tools such as Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Data Lake storage, Azure Machine Learning services, and the Microsoft AI platform. Combined with FPGAs and GPUs, this makes them competitive, some of the time, with traditional supercomputers.

Nadella stepped it up a notch in his opening keynote at the recent Ignite gathering held last month in Orlando, where he revealed extensive research and development effort focused on trying to one day offer quantum computing. The machines are intended for tasks such as analytics, climate modeling, engineering simulations, and scientific and medical research.

Jason Zander, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure, said: "Using the enterprise-proven power of Microsoft Azure, customers are running their most strategic workloads in our cloud". While it's not immediately clear to what extent, if any, Cray will be working with Microsoft on quantum computing, it's a safe bet that they will at some level, if not now, in the future.