There’s plenty to like, even love, about virtual machines.
They grant developers the opportunity to create better and more responsive environments for testing, applications, or data storage by simulating different hardware and server configurations.
Users who utilize the data cloud for their VMs can see even more potential for storage, performance, security, and remote access. Companies can go into the cloud saving money by no longer having to continuously invest in servers and workstations.
But as popular as virtual machines have been for improving overall efficiency for many companies, some drawbacks have emerged, especially where scalability and resource use is concerned. The term some use is “bursty,” where at times a lot of power may be needed for certain tasks but other times little is—accounting departments are often pointed out as the ideal example.
When extra computing power is needed, more CPU resources must be used or found. But during less critical times when little activity is taking place on the VMs, users are often still paying for the same maximum power.
Microsoft allows users to create virtual machines through its Azure portal, which now offers solutions to make it much easier to move from very little activity to a full burst and back again without blowing any circuits or budgets or slowing down other projects.
The Azure B-series virtual machines, which became available in mid-November in the U.S., now offer the ability to ramp up to a full burst without requiring full, continuous use of the vCPU.
Even better, when not required to be fully engaged and barely using the established baseline for CPU performance, a vCPU can earn credits that can be saved and used for future high-performance needs, including bursts up to 100 percent of the vCPU, via Intel Haswell 2.4 GHz E5-2673 v3 processors or better.
The B-series model of virtual machines provides users high value and flexibility in how to effectively and efficiently deploy their system resources and will likely be popular with all sizes of organizations.
- It can save your company money. With Azure, users pay per virtual machine and for cloud storage, plus hourly fees for each machine’s operating system and size/standard workload. If a machine isn’t always being used to its maximum, savings can already be found. The B-series is also considered lower cost compared to other VMs.
- It’s versatile. The ‘burst and pay’ approach available through the B-series can be handy for all sizes and types of companies, especially those with workloads that use small databases, web servers, and testing /development environments where system use is known to vary regularly.
- There are plenty of choices. Microsoft’s B-series models offer six virtual machine sizes and configurations during the initial product preview, including Standard B1s and B1ms, B2 and B2ms, B4ms, and B8sms. These range from 1 GiB, 10 percent baseline CPU usage for the B1, to 32 GiB and 135 percent usage, to 800 percent max CPU usage for eight machines. Hourly price for each virtual machine size varies depending on whether Linux or Windows servers are used, and hourly credit accrual also varies.
- The credits aren’t bad. Standard system monitoring is possible and can save resources. But the potential credits that can be found can be attractive. Currently, 1 credit equals 1 minute of vCPU power running at 100 percent utilization, so the more credits, the longer this can run. There are limits, however. The B1 models accrue 6 credits/hour and allow people to bank 144 credits for 2.5 hours, while the B8ms can accrue 81 credits/hour and allow you to bank 1,944 credits.
- Better discounts are available during the ‘preview’ period. The preview of the new B-series began in the Western and Eastern U.S., then Western Europe, then Pacific Asia/Southeast. The company plans to unveil other regions of the world later this year. Significant hourly savings are available to Eastern U.S. customers during the preview period, starting with $.006 for the B1 Linux and $.009 for the B1 Windows (usually these would be $.012 and $.017, respectively.) The preview price for the B8ms is $.188 for Linux and $.219 for Windows, or $.376 and $.439 for the standard price.
- It includes useful third-party options. As more developers become familiar with Azure and the ‘burst and play’ model of the B-series, expect more solutions to help make it easier to work with, including more strategies to migrate data centers and other elements to the cloud, along with better monitoring of system resources, including real-time CPU usage levels. Companies seeking ways to remain below baseline levels as much as possible to earn more credits for later can look for minimizing solutions like resizing or shutting down surplus desktop hosts when not in use. Nerdio’s Intelligent AutoScaling is one tool that focuses on these tasks.
- Better security is more important than ever. Some companies prefer using public clouds to host their data, including virtual machines, while others use their own private clouds. Microsoft also can offer use of its Azure cloud. Each option has its pros and cons, but the Microsoft cloud may be the most useful as far as providing the easiest access to Azure tools and stronger security.
Overall, developers seeking ways to better utilize virtual machines should consider previewing the B-series, especially when the early discounts are available.