Microsoft Azure networking is speeding up, thanks to custom hardware

Networking among virtual machines in Microsoft Azure is going to get a whole lot faster thanks to some new hardware that Microsoft has rolled out across its fleet of data centers.

The company announced Monday that it has deployed hundreds of thousands of FPGAs (Field-Programmable Gate Arrays) across servers in 15 countries and five different continents. The chips have been put to use in a variety of first-party Microsoft services, and they’re now starting to accelerate networking on the company’s Azure cloud platform.

In addition to improving networking speeds, the FPGAs (which sit on custom, Microsoft-designed boards connected to Azure servers) can also be used to improve the speed of machine-learning tasks and other key cloud functionality. Microsoft hasn’t said exactly what the contents of the boards include, other than revealing that they hold an FPGA, static RAM chips and hardened digital signal processors. 

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