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Do more with less using new Azure HX and HBv4 virtual machines for HPC

Posted on November 10, 2022

Principal Product Manager, Azure HPC

This post was co-authored by Jyothi Venkatesh, Senior Product Manager, Azure HPC and Fanny Ou, Technical Program Manager, Azure HPC.

The next generation of purpose-built Azure HPC virtual machines

Today, we are excited to announce two new virtual machines (VMs) that deliver more performance, value-adding innovation, and cost-effectiveness to every Azure HPC customer. The all-new HX-series and HBv4-series VMs are coming soon to the East US region, and thereafter to the South Central US, West US3, and West Europe regions. These new VMs are optimized for a variety of HPC workloads such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis, frontend and backend electronic design automation (EDA), rendering, molecular dynamics, computational geoscience, weather simulation, AI inference, and financial risk analysis.

Innovative technologies to help HPC customers where it matters most

HX and HBv4 VMs are packed with new and innovative technologies that maximize performance and minimize total HPC spend, including:

  • 4th Gen AMD EPYC™ processors (Preview, Q4 2022).
  • Upcoming AMD EPYC processors, codenamed "Genoa-X," (with general availability in 1H 2023).
  • 800 GB/s of DDR5 memory bandwidth (STREAM TRIAD).
  • 400 Gb/s NVIDIA Quantum-2 CX7 InfiniBand, the first on the public cloud.
  • 80 Gb/s Azure Accelerated Networking.
  • PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs delivering 12 GB/s (read) and 7 GB/s (write) of storage bandwidth.

Below are preliminary benchmarks from the preview of HBv4 and HX series VMs using 4th Gen AMD EPYC processors across several common HPC applications and domains. For comparison, performance information is also included from Azure’s most recent H-series (HBv3-series with Milan-X processors), as well as a 4-year-old HPC-optimized server commonly found in many on-premises datacenters (represented here by Azure HC-series with Skylake processors).

Graph showing performance across benchmarks, relative to a 4-year-old server, HBv3 VMs, and HBv4/HX VMs.

Figure 1: Performance comparison of HBv4/HX-series in Preview to HBv3-series and four-year-old server technology in an HPC-optimized configuration across diverse workloads and scientific domains.

Learn more about the performance of HBv4 and HX-series VMs with 4th Gen EPYC CPUs.

HBv4-series brings performance leaps across a diverse set of HPC workloads

Azure HBv3 VMs with 3rd Gen AMD EPYC™ processors with AMD 3D V-cache™ Technology already deliver impressive levels of HPC performance, scaling MPI workloads up to 27x higher than other clouds, surpassing many of the leading supercomputers in the world, and offering the disruptive value proposition of faster time to solution with lower total cost. Unsurprisingly, the response from customers and partners has been phenomenal. With the introduction of HBv4 series VMs, Azure is raising the bar yet again—this time across an even greater diversity of memory performance-bound, compute-bound, and massively parallel workloads.

VM Size

Physical CPU Cores

RAM (GB)

Memory Bandwidth (STREAM TRIAD) (GB/s)

L3 Cache/VM (MB)

FP64 Compute (TFLOPS)

InfiniBand RDMA Network (Gbps)

Standard_HB176rs_v4

176

688

800

768 MB

6

400

Standard_HB176-144rs_v4

144

688

800

768 MB

6

400

Standard_HB176-96rs_v4

96

688

800

768 MB

6

400

Standard_HB176-48rs_v4

48

688

800

768 MB

6

400

Standard_HB176-24rs_v4

24

688

800

768 MB

6

400

Notes: 1) r” denotes support for remote direct memory access (RDMA) and “s” denotes support for Premium SSD disks. 2) At General Availability, Azure HBv4 VMs will be upgraded to Genao-X processors featuring 3D V-cache. Updated technical specifications for HBv4 will be posted at that time.

HX-series powers next generation silicon design

In Azure, we strive to deliver the best platform for silicon design, both now and far into the future. Azure HBv3 VMs, featuring 3rd Gen AMD EPYC processors with AMD 3D V-cache Technology, are a significant step toward this objective, offering the highest performance and total cost effectiveness in the public cloud for small and medium memory EDA workloads. With the introduction of HX-series VMs, Azure is enhancing its differentiation with a VM purpose-built for even larger models becoming commonplace among chip designers targeting 3, 4, and 5 nanometer processes.

HX VMs will feature 3x more RAM than any prior H-series VM, up to nearly 60 GB of RAM per core, and constrained cores VM sizes to help silicon design customers maximize ROI of their per-core commercial licensing investments.

VM Size

Physical CPU Cores

RAM (GB)

Memory/Core(GB)

L3 Cache/VM (MB)

Local SSD NVMe (TB)

InfiniBand RDMA Network (Gbps)

Standard_HX176rs

176

1,408

8

768

3.6 TB

400

Standard_HX176-144rs

144

1,408

10

768

3.6 TB

400

Standard_HX176-96rs

96

1,408

15

768

3.6 TB

400

Standard_HX176-48rs

48

1,408

29

768

3.6 TB

400

Standard_HX176-24rs

24

1,408

59

768

3.6 TB

400

Notes: 1) “r” denotes support for remote direct memory access (RDMA) and “s” denotes support for Premium SSD disks. 2) At General Availability, Azure HBv4 VMs will be upgraded to Genoa-X processors featuring 3D V-cache. Updated technical specifications for HBv4 will be posted at that time.

400 Gigabit InfiniBand for supercomputing customers

HBv4 and HX VMs are Azure’s first to leverage 400 Gigabit NVIDIA Quantum-2 InfiniBand. This newest generation of InfiniBand brings greater support for the offload of MPI collectives, enhanced congestion control, and enhanced adaptive routing capabilities. Using the new HBv4 or HX-series VMs and only a standard Azure Virtual Machine Scale Set (VMSS), customers can scale CPU-based MPI workloads beyond 50,000 cores per job.

Continuous improvement for Azure HPC customers

Microsoft and AMD share a vision for a new era of high-performance computing in the cloud: one defined by constant improvements to the critical research and business workloads that matter most to our customers. Azure continues to collaborate with AMD to make this vision a reality by raising the bar on the performance, scalability, and value we deliver with every release of Azure H-series VMs.

Graph showing consistent performance increases across generations of virtual machines: HC series (Skylake), HBv2 series (Rome), HBv3 series (Milan X), HX/HBv4 series (Genoa).

Figure 2: Azure HPC Performance 2019 through 2022.

Learn more about the performance of HBv4 and HX-series VMs with 4th Gen EPYC CPUs.

Customer and partner momentum

Altair orange triangular logomark and business name.

"We’re pleased to see Altair® AcuSolve®’s impressive linear scale-up on the HBv3 instances, showing up to 2.5 times speedup. Performance increases 12.83 times with an 8-node (512-core) configuration on 3rd AMD EPYC™ processors, an excellent scale-up value for AcuSolve compared to the previous generation delivering superior price performance. We welcome the addition of the new Azure HBv4 and HX-series virtual machines and look forward to pairing them with Altair software to the benefit of our joint customers.”

—Dr. David Curry, Senior Vice President, CFD and EDEM

AMD business name and abstarct logomark.

"Customers in the HPC industry continue to demand higher performance and optimizations to run their most mission-critical and data-intensive applications. 4th Gen AMD EPYC processors provide breakthrough performance for HPC in the cloud, delivering impressive time to results for customers adopting Azure HX-series and HBv4-series VMs."

—Lynn Comp, Corporate Vice President, Cloud Business, AMD

ANSYS text logo.

"Ansys electronics, semiconductor, fluids, and structures customers demand more throughput out of their simulation tools to overcome challenges posed by product complexity and project timelines. Microsoft's HBv3 virtual machines, featuring AMD’s 3rd Gen EPYC processors with 3D V-Cache, have been giving companies a great price/performance crossover point to support these multiphysics simulations on-demand and with very little IT overhead. We look forward to leveraging Azure’s next generation of HPC VMs featuring 4th Gen AMD EPYC processors, the HX and HBv4 series, to enable even greater simulation complexity and speed to help engineers reduce risk and meet time-to-market deadlines."

—John Lee, Vice President and General Manager, Electronics and Semiconductor, Ansys

Cadece text logo.

"We’ve helped thousands of customers combine the performance and scalability of the cloud, providing ease-of-use and instance access to our powerful computational software, which speeds the delivery of innovative designs. The two new high-performance computing virtual machines powered by the AMD Genoa processor on Microsoft Azure can provide our mutual customers with optimal performance as they tackle the ever-increasing demands of compute and memory capacity for gigascale, advanced-node designs."

—Mahesh Turaga, Vice President, Cloud Business Development, Cadence

Hexagon Logo and business name with Technology partner underneath.

"Hexagon simulation software powers some of the most advanced engineering in the world. We’re proud to partner with Microsoft, and excited to pair our software with Azure’s new HBv4 virtual machines. During early testing in collaboration with the Azure HPC team, we have seen a generational performance speedups of 400 percent when comparing structural simulations running on HBv3 and HX-series VMs. We look forward to seeing what our joint customers will do with this remarkable combination of software and hardware to advance their research and productivity, now and tomorrow. In the first quarter of 2023, we will be benchmarking heavy industrial CFD computations, leveraging multiple HBv4 virtual machines connected through InfiniBand."

—Bruce Engelmann, CTO, Hexagon

Rescale cloud logo.

"Microsoft Azure has once again raised the bar for HPC infrastructure platform in the cloud this time with the launch of Azure HBv4 and HX virtual machines based on AMD’s 4th gen EPYC Genoa CPUs. We are expecting a strong customer demand for HBv4 and are excited to offer it to our customers that would like to run CFD, EDA, or other types of HPC workloads in the cloud.

—Mulyanto Poort, Vice President of HPC Engineering at Rescale

Siemens logo.

"Early testing by AMD with Siemens EDA workloads showed 15 percent to 22 percent improvements in runtimes with Microsoft Azure’s new AMD-based virtual machines compared to the previous generation. Semiconductor chip designers face a range of technical challenges that make hitting release dates extremely difficult. The combined innovation of AMD, Microsoft Azure, and Siemens provides a simplified path to schedule predictability through the increased performance possible with the latest offerings."

—Craig Johnson, Vice President, Siemens, EDA Cloud Solutions

Synopsys text logo.

"Customer adoption of the cloud for chip development is accelerating, driven by complexity and time-to-market advantages. The close collaboration between Synopsys and Microsoft brings together EDA and optimized compute to enable customers to scale under the Synopsys FlexEDA pay-per-use model. Verification represents a significant EDA workload in today’s complex SoCs and with the release of AMD’s next-generation EPYC processor available on Microsoft Azure, customers can take advantage of the optimized cache utilization and NUMA-aware memory layout techniques to achieve up to 2x verification throughput over previous generations."

—Sandeep Mehndiratta, Vice President of Cloud at Synopsys

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