Stuck at home? Why not let an edgy, GPU-boosted slice of Azure keep you company?

Microsoft expands preview of T4 Tensor Core-flavoured Azure Stack Edge

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It isn't only workers being sent home as Microsoft announced an expansion of its warmed-over Azure Stack Edge preview, replete with Nvidia GPU goodness, at the GPU Technology Conference this week.

The purpose of Azure Stack Edge is to shunt processing out of the cloud to where the local action happens via a managed appliance. Announced back in November 2019, the device was a first-party box from Microsoft aimed at bringing the compute, storage and AI smarts of Azure into the workplace.

Back then, the gang showed the Edge appliance in all manner of exciting locations, from a rucksack to sitting next to a worker perched on a cliff. More likely, it will be shunted into cupboards at remote office, retail or hospital locations where bandwidth is constrained or latency an issue.

The expansion includes the incarnation with the Nvidia T4 Tensor Core GPU, which will allow those with machine learning needs to benefit from the hardware acceleration afforded by the exotic chippery.

Naturally, Microsoft is cock-a-hoop about its edgy gizmo and has wheeled out customers to attest to its power for scenarios such as real-time processing of video. Other scenarios include training a model in the cloud before deployment locally for GPU-powered inferencing.

Additional compute and AI capabilities, and the promised battery-powered "Rugged series", is on the way this year.

Microsoft enjoys slapping the word "Azure" on lots of its products (it can sure only be a matter of time before Windows 10 is rebranded "Microsoft Azure Desktop 365") and last year even subjected poor old Windows Server to the rebrandogun. Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter became Azure Stack HCI.

While an Azure Stack HCI appliance is more suitable for more demanding workloads than the lighter-weight Edge device, we were delighted to note that some enterprising vendors had come up with packaging ideas more creative than the usual rack-mounted tedium or grey box hidden under someone's desk.

Behold Azure Stack HCI in a wooden-suitcase.

Amazingly, the thing will run for two hours on a battery, features 64GB RAM and will happily do duty as a two-node HCI cluster. It makes us think fondly of all those creative case ideas for mini-ITX boards or Raspberry Pi-type devices.

Sure, a Nvidia GPU-enabled Azure Stack Edge device is all well and good, but we eagerly await Microsoft's inevitable entry into the wooden box market. ®


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