Azure Virtual Machines: What The Options Are & How They Differ

Virtual machines are remarkably versatile, allowing users to draw from the near-unlimited power of the cloud to rapidly spool up new workstations to suit their exact requirements. Given its industry-leading utility, it isn’t surprising that Microsoft Azure offers a broad range of virtual machine configurations and pricing options — but it can be hard to parse.

When you’re operating as an Azure reseller, it’s greatly beneficial to have a straightforward notion of which virtual machine types should be recommended for particular scenarios. To that end, we put together the following guide to the Azure Virtual Machine series lineup.

Note: there are various ways in which we could have sorted the list (starting price, for instance), but we opted for sorting by use case. Let’s get started.

Entry level: VMs for basic workloads.

Some users need VMs that don’t cost too much, having only low-level tasks. If they want to run some tests or host some very basic projects, they can turn to the A-series VMs: starting at well under a penny per hour, they’re the cheapest in the entire lineup by far.

If their needs are slightly greater, and they need systems capable of moderate traffic (or even occasional spikes), then they can use B-series VMs. These VMs are very economical, still being very cheap — starting at £2.05 per month — while being reasonably capable.

General purpose: solid all-round workhorses.

Anyone who has middle-of-the-road requirements and doesn’t need high-end performance in any particular area would do well with a D-series VM. These machines are finely balanced to ensure minimal bottlenecking, and they’re suitable for enterprise-level workloads. Additionally, starting at £31.02 per month, they should fit neatly into most budgets.

Security optimised: protecting data privacy and integrity. 

In a post-GDPR world, it’s more important than ever before to keep processing data safe, and the DC-series was designed to accommodate. Combining secure enclaves (protected regions of memory) with the always-effective encryption innate to the Azure platform, it makes it easier to protect confidential business information — and it starts at £36.46 per month.

Storage optimised: built for vast quantities of data.

High-end databases can require massive amounts of storage, and the Ls-series was designed to handle applications needing not only high-capacity local storage but also excellent responsiveness and transfer speeds. Starting at £339.51 per month, it’s an investment, but anyone needing that much space (anything from 1.9 to 19 terabytes per VM) can surely afford it. 

Compute optimised: VMS for processing.

The immense power of the cloud makes it endlessly useful to those with processing to get done, and the F-series (from £26.66 per month) is the first Azure VM lineup to focus on computing-heavy tasks such as batch processing or handling multiplayer game activity.

For those who need to process immensely-complex calculations, the H-series of high-performance VMs offers the sheer horsepower needed to get the job done. Starting at £433.09 per month, this series provides great configurability, making it easy for users to select the setups that match their workloads.

Graphics optimised: VMs with attached GPUs.

Most processing tasks are devised for CPUs alone, but some can either benefit from dedicated graphics processing or outright require it. The N-series of VMs (starting at £489.67 per month) is unique in the lineup because each one boasts a card from NVIDIA’s Tesla range of GPUs for data centres, opening up possibilities including high-resolution rendering and deep learning. 

Memory optimised: configured for in-memory workloads.

More than raw processing power or permanent storage, many cloud-based systems require huge amounts of high-speed memory to handle expansive business applications (many of which can be mission-critical). Because enterprise-level memory management is complicated, there are four distinct VM series that can be suitable:

The E-series offers the most affordable memory-optimised VMs in the Azure lineup, starting from £68.56 per month, and goes from 16 gigabytes of RAM all the way up to 432 gigabytes for the most costly implementation of the most recent generation.

The G-series doesn’t up the memory total (it actually has a slightly-lower cap), but it hugely increases the amount of permanent storage and offers superior processing power. To accommodate those significant increases, it starts at £238.85 per month.

The M-series does provide a huge boost in the memory total, with only the lowest tier (£835.98 per month) offering less memory than the E-series cap of 432 gigabytes. It goes all the way up to an impressive 3,892 gigabytes — more than enough for almost any task.

The Mv2-series follows in the footsteps of the M-series by once again raising the bar, taking the cap up to a massive 11,400 gigabytes. At the same time, it offers far-better processing power, ranging from 208 to 416 v-cores where the M-series doesn’t go above 128.

Why it’s important to understand the options

As a reseller, you hold a lot of sway with your clients, so your suggestions will be taken under serious consideration. If you recommend the wrong series of virtual machines — pushing the N-series VMs for use on tasks with no need for graphics processing, for instance — then your clients will likely end up paying far more than they needed to for power they don’t use.
If that’s ever discovered, it will reflect very poorly on you and cause an unnecessary conflict with your clients. By ensuring that you make the most appropriate suggestions (and know how to upsell someone on VMs for projects they could run), you can safeguard your reputation and make more sales in the process.

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