Microsoft brings Arm support to Azure virtual machines

It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft is making available a preview of Azure VMs supporting Arm-based processors from Ampere.

It's been a long road, but Microsoft announced on April 4 a preview of Arm support on Azure virtual machines via its work with Ampere Computing. Ampere is a startup that makes server chips. Ampere announced last year it had signed up Microsoft and Tencent Holdings as major customers.

"We are now supporting Arm on Azure as well. This has been a long journey to bring up Ampere on Azure with Windows as the Root Host OS! we are also supporting Windows 11 Arm VMs in preview for developers!" tweeted Hari Pulapaka, the director of PM for Azure Host OS and the Windows OS platform. "FYI all Windows developers who have been asking for VM support in Azure, it's here now." 

Azure VMs with Ampere Altra Arm-based processors will offer up to 50 percent better price-performance than comparable x86-based VMs for scale-out workloads, Microsoft officials said. These new VMs are also for Web servers, application servers, open-source databases, gaming servers, media servers, and more, they added.

The preview is initially available in the West US 2, West Central US, and West Europe Azure regions. Ampere's announcement of the Azure VM preview is here.

The Dpsv5 and Epsv5 Azure VM-series feature the Ampere Altra Arm-based processor operating at up to 3.0GHz, according to Microsoft's blog post. The new VMs provide up to 64 vCPUs and include VM sizes with 2GiB, 4GiB, and 8GiB per vCPU memory configurations, up to 40 Gbps networking, and optional high-performance local SSD storage.

The VMs currently in preview support Canonical Ubuntu Linux, CentOS, and Windows 11 Professional and Enterprise Edition on Arm. Support for additional operating systems including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Debian, AlmaLinux, and Flatcar is on the way, officials said.

In 2020, Microsoft officially announced that it has been working with Intel, AMD, and two ARM vendors (Qualcomm and Cavium) to support Project Olympus, Microsoft's next-generation cloud-hardware design provided to the Open Compute Project. Microsoft also announced that it has been involved with multiple ARM suppliers, including Qualcomm and Cavium on getting Windows Server to run ARM for its own internal data center use only.

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