It’s been quite some time since we last heard details about the upcoming N-Series Virtual Machines (VMs). in Microsoft Azure. Microsoft recently announced further details on the N-Series VMs. There will be two different series: the compute focused N-Series powered by Tesla K80 GPUs, and the visualization focused NV-Series powered by Tesla M60 GPUs.

As many are aware, Cloud VMs traditionally haven’t been able to run graphics intensive workloads. The reason for this is because the VMs do not have access to dedicated, powerful GPUs in the cloud. That really is until now! Ahem, soon! Once in Preview, the Azure N-Series VMs will be the first public cloud VMs to offer this bleeding edge technology in the cloud.

Azure N-Series Tiers

The Azure NC-Series VMs will feature the faster GPUs in the public cloud. They will be powered by NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs. They will provide the fastest computational GPU power available in the public cloud. The Tesla K80 with it’s 4992 CUDA cores in a dual-GPU design can deliver up to 2.91 Teraflops of double-precision and up to 8.93 Teraflops of single-precision performance.

Here’s the VM Tiers for NVIDIA Tesla K80 VMs that Microsoft has announced for Azure NC-Series VMs:

NC6 NC12 NC24
CPU Cores 6
GPU 1 x K80 GPU (1/2 Physical Card) 2 x K80 GPU (1 Physical Card) 4 x K80 GPU (2 Physical Cards)
Memory 56 GB 112 GB 224 GB
Storage 380 GB SSD 680 GB SSD 1.44 TB SSD

Additionally, the NV-Series VMs will provide more visualization focused GPU power. They will be powered by NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPUs and NVIDIA GRID in Azure for desktop accelerated applications and virtual desktops. These VMs will be perfect for running single precision workloads such as encoding and rendering, as well as visualizing graphic-intensive workflows. The NVIDIA Tesla M60 with it’s 4096 CUDA cores in a dual-GPU design can deliver up to 36 streams of 1080p H.264.

Here’s the VM Tiers for NVIDIA Tesla M60 VMs that Microsoft has announced for Azure NV-Series VMs:

NV6 NV12 NV24
CPU Cores 6
GPU 1 x M60 GPU (1/2 Physical Card) 2 x M60 GPU (1 Physical Card) 4 x M60 GPU (2 Physical Cards)
Memory 56 GB 112 GB 224 GB
Storage 380 GB SSD 680 GB SSD 1.44 TB SSD

NVIDIA Partnership

To deliver the Azure N-Series Virtual Machines (VMs) Microsoft has created a partnership with NVIDIA. Together they are able to ensure that the N-Series VMs are optimized to offer the highest possible performance in the public cloud.

Azure N-Series now makes GPU computing accessible for modern day Da Vincis, Curies and Einsteins to solve the world’s hardest problems. With over 400 industry applications accelerated by NVIDIA GPUs, Microsoft and NVIDIA are serving the world’s most demanding users and powering amazing experiences in simulation, artificial intelligence, professional visualization.” – Ian Buck, VP of accelerated computing, NVIDIA

This partnership offers the first public cloud support for this bleeding edge graphics hardware from NVIDIA. As such, it really offers yet another Microsoft Azure service feature that truly sets it apart from other public cloud services.

What workloads can be run?

It’s important to remember that not all VM series in Azure are getting these NVIDIA GPUs. Just the N-Series (NC-Series and NV-Series) are getting these amazing GPU “upgrades”. Sure, video rendering and encoding is a fairly obvious supported workloads. However, with this new found graphics power in the cloud it can be difficult to imagine what kinds of workloads this empowers.

Here’s a list of some of the types of workloads and/or applications that could be run with the Azure N-Series VMs as either a server or remote desktop:

  • Rendering
  • Encoding
  • AutoCAD
  • Adobe Premier Pro
  • Virtual Desktops

Basically any workload that requires dedicated GPU power will be able to be run in Azure using the N-Series VMs. Whether this includes Gaming, Minecraft or Bitcoin is almost certainly a “Yes.” However, time will tell how feasible these things are since there’s still a bit to be known about Azure’s GPU architecture in addition to what coding changes will be necessary to get various apps up and running in Azure N-Series VMs.

Preview Availability and GA Timeline

Currently the Azure N-Series VMs are available in Preview in the South Central US Region only. The announced plan is to expand into additional Azure regions over the next couple months, with General Availability by the end of 2016.

Here’s a screenshot of the current pricing information for N-Series VMs:


Keep in mind this pricing information could change anytime, and you’ll want to double check the Azure Virtual Machine Pricing page and the Azure Portal for more up to date pricing as it applies to your EA agreement.

For future updates and more information from Microsoft, go “register” your interest in the Azure + NVIDIA GPU powered N-Series VMs at


There were a couple links from Microsoft used as reference when writing this article, including to the Azure documentation. Below is a link to the reference used:


Posted by Chris Pietschmann

Chris is a Microsoft MVP and has 15+ years of experience building enterprise systems both in the cloud and on-premises. He is also a Microsoft Certified (MCSD) Azure Solutions Architect. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.


  1. […] Azure N-Series VMs and NVIDIA GPUs in the Cloud by Chris Pietschmann […]



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