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Benchmark a cloud PC? No way. Just trust us, they work, says Microsoft

DaaS is SaaS, so expect constant change that makes numbers moot

Microsoft has offered guidance for those trying to benchmark cloud PCs: don't bother.

A Tuesday post by Ron Martinsen, senior product manager for Windows 365 Cloud PC and Azure Virtual Desktops, opens with an account of his 28+ years of experience at Microsoft. During that time, he reminisces, he was "involved in countless performance studies" and learned "it's nearly impossible to get repeatable data in an environment that reflects the reality of what users will be using."

Martinsen wrote that the number of variables involved – the OS, network latency, disk caching, and memory optimization dependent on the startup order of applications – mean "when you run the same test repeatedly under identical conditions, you get results that might not be an exact match each time."

In the cloud, he adds, the number of variables increases.

"Imagine if you take all these variables and complexities and put them into an environment where the host compute is running on a cluster and serving a variable number of active Cloud PCs," he wrote. He also pointed out that Cloud PCs can be used on many different devices with variable capabilities: speed on a cheap Android handset may not match what's possible on a PC powered by a manycore AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i9.

Martinsen also revealed "the underlying hardware of Cloud PCs may vary over time as Microsoft updates and upgrades its infrastructure. Therefore, it is not possible to provide exact performance metrics for each Cloud PC configuration as they may differ slightly depending on hardware configuration."

Microsoft does not, therefore, publish performance data for its Cloud PC configurations.

"Such numbers would not be very useful or reliable, since a Cloud PC is not a fixed hardware device but a dynamic SaaS offering that Microsoft continuously evolves," Martinsen wrote.

That's at odds with the megacorp's stance regarding cloudy servers – a product in which it makes a virtue of the underlying hardware and its capabilities. Earlier this week Microsoft even promoted a new Azure instance type that offers less RAM – tuned to the needs of applications that can get away with using less memory.

What's a potential Cloud PC buyer to do as they try to assess the service's suitability for their workloads?

"Trust Microsoft to deliver consistent and optimal performance" is Martinsen's advice. No, really.

"Microsoft's goal is to ensure that all Cloud PCs meet expected service level agreements and provide a consistent user experience across different configurations," he wrote.

When The Register took one of those Cloud PCs for a spin we found Microsoft's least mighty cloud PC was scarcely usable, while the software giant's remote desktop app taxed our 2018-vintage ThinkPad powered by an 8th-gen Corei5.

Hopefully that experience has since received a dose of that continuous evolution stuff. ®

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