Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Avere Systems, bringing its high-performance storage technology in-house.
Avere uses flash-based storage and customized file system optimizations to accelerate performance-demanding applications running in large-scale datacenters. The company has become a specialist in cloud-based storage, and has been working diligently to improve its hybrid cloud offerings. In 2016, the company grew their cloud business by 97 percent, nearly doubling the growth achieved in 2015.
Avere's user base spans manufacturing, media and entertainment, life sciences, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and financial services. The company also serves the government and higher education markets. Marquee customers include The Library of Congress, Johns Hopkins University, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Teradyne.
In a blog post penned by Jason Zander, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure, he sings Avere’s praises, noting that the storage-maker “uses an innovative combination of file system and caching technologies to support the performance requirements for customers who run large-scale compute workloads.” The plan, says Zander, is to pair Avere technology with Azure to better serve customers running HPC applications in the cloud.
The acquisition represents another move by Microsoft to boost Azure’s appeal to HPC customers. In August of last year, Microsoft acquired Cycle Computing, a maker of cloud orchestration software for really large-scale jobs, the kind associated with HPC workloads. Then in October, Microsoft teamed up with Cray to offer a dedicated supercomputing cloud offering. Although this particular product deviated from the flexible computing-on-demand model of Azure, it enabled Microsoft to stake out a unique high-end cloud service for more demanding HPC customers.
Cloud-based high performance computing is still a relatively small part of the HPC market, but there are indications it is taking off, especially for commercial applications. Both Hyperion Research and Intersect360 Research have pointed to growing demand in recent analysis. And thanks to competition between providers (and Moore’s Law), cloud computing prices have been steadily dropping, making the move to these services more attractive to HPC users. That has been especially true in those instances where workload demand is highly variable and capital budgets for buying computing infrastructure is constrained. This is often the case for commercial users, where large datacenters are scarce and modeling/analysis are often part of a complex and irregular business workflow.
Although all major cloud providers are going after this market, Microsoft has given special attention in developing tools and other software for this type of environment, where both scalability and performance are critical to success. Where such software was already developed elsewhere, as in the case of Cycle Computing and Avere Systems, Microsoft has purchased the technology in order to fill in some gaps. In both cases, the financial terms of these acquisitions were not disclosed.