Microsoft’s “Hybrid Loop” demonstrates the Basics of AI-Powered Client/Cloud Computing

Foresight: The most intriguing idea that will come out at Microsoft’s Build conference this year is a forward -looking concept the company calls “Hybrid Loop,” which refers to a range of hybrid applications that bridge between cloud and edge applications. client device. At a basic level, hybrid applications are able to work locally on a client PC and in the cloud and, more importantly, dynamically switch between the two.

If there’s one place you’re likely to hear where computing and apps are headed, it’s likely that Microsoft’s developer-focused Build conference is probably the place. True to form, this year’s Build introduced some interesting new concepts that gave an idea of ​​where Microsoft’s vision for software was headed, while simultaneously hinting at some key technologies (notably CPUs). . Arm -based) which they believe will be needed to power in the future.

For hybrid applications, the cloud is meant to be viewed as an additional computing resource, such as a GPU that can be used in addition to the central processor that powers a typical PC. For example, these types of applications can decide at runtime whether to perform AI inference on client devices or in the Azure cloud.

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Additionally, since most of these new applications are likely to include some level of AI, they should also take advantage of NPUs (Neural Processing Units) or other types of AI hardware accelerators. Thus, hybrid applications and the hybrid loop concept can be written to use the CPU, GPU, and NPU of a local device and, if required or instructed, also use cloud-based computing resources.

This is a fascinating theory, but how it can be translated into actual capabilities remains to be seen. After all, the concept of cloud-based processing for client devices has been around for quite some time. It helps enable virtual desktops and thin clients, among other applications, and forms the basis of Microsoft Windows 365 and its notion of Cloud PCs. For certain types of environments or situations, these solutions may work very well. However, performance limitations, scaling issues and more have forced them into appropriate deployments so far and they only represent a small percentage of the overall client computing market.

However, taking some of the principles of hybrid cloud environments and applying them to the customer certainly looks like it should work. Dynamic resource allocation has been an integral part of cloud computing architectures since time immemorial, so it makes sense to want to apply some of these principles to client computing devices. Plus, one of the big benefits of running in the cloud is that it makes platform -specific application issues less of a concern. By their nature, cloud-based applications are cross-platform and hardware-platform independent.

A major challenge is that until now, applications have not been specifically written or optimized to work in these types of environments. Part of Microsoft’s vision is to use cloud-native development skills to build these AI-powered hybrid client/cloud applications. In fact, many Build announcements are dedicated to new tools to help developers get used to these ideas. Microsoft talked about using its OnnX Runtime and Azure ML tools along with a new prototype AI toolchain to allow developers to build apps that fit this hybrid loop model.

A practical challenge is that most PCs today do not have dedicated AI processing. Both Intel and AMD have discussed this and will likely have more silicon-focused AI in future games.

A practical challenge is that most PCs today do not have dedicated AI processing. Both Intel and AMD have discussed this and will likely have more silicon-focused AI in future games. Additionally, Nvidia’s CUDA efforts show that GPUs can be used for AI applications, but most of them only work on servers. The only current AI processing option for Windows-based PCs is the Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs used in Windows on Arm-based devices, including Microsoft’s Surface Pro X.

Despite very few shipments to date for this entire category, Microsoft strongly believes in the potential of Arm-based PCs and clarified this through several announcements during the Build.

First, Microsoft previewed the Volterra project, which is a small desktop PC/dev kit powered by Snapdragon. Project Volterra uses Qualcomm’s new neural processing SDK for Windows and can be used to begin developing these types of AI -enabled hybrid apps. The Qualcomm tool uses Snapdragon’s built-in Hexagon DSP, Kryo processor, and Adreno GPU that mobile developers have been using for years to develop AI-powered smartphone apps. Recognizing that most PCs still have x86 processors, Microsoft also said it will bring NPU -specific support to all other Windows developer tools.

Speaking of developer tools, the other big announcement associated with Arm Build is the release of a comprehensive set of Arm’s native developer tools, including Visual Studio 2022, VSCode, Visual C ++, Modern. NET6, and Java, and more. The company also said it is working to get a number of open source projects, including Python, node, git, etc., to natively target the Arm architecture. It’s all part of the company’s effort to make Arm an equal x86 citizen in the world of PC clients.

Even with the potential growth of Arm-based PCs and dedicated AI processors into PCs, it remains to be seen whether current client PC architectures can effectively utilize cloud resources. Although nothing has been announced, Microsoft seems to be working on new types of cloud PC designs and architectures that could provide a better way to do so. We will see.

Microsoft didn’t expect the Hybrid Loop concept to be overnight, so many of these efforts are expected to take several years. However, it is quite interesting to see the direction in which the company is seeing the transition of the IT world. There are clearly large hurdles that must be overcome, but integrating cloud computing, edge computing, client computing, AI and more into an organized whole that works across a very diverse range of hardware resources is an insight that is in. I think we will think. about a moment.

Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and the professional finance community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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