• Many Windows Azure Updates

    by  • March 12, 2013 • USCloud, Windows Azure

    The great thing about becoming a devices and services company is that we can now engineer in monthly intervals instead of yearly intervals. In the old days, when you had to ship software on plastic disks, we would plan on ship cycles that take years to finish, most typically a three year cycle for major servers (Windows, SQL, etc.)

    With the cloud, and with a services centric approach, we can now ship more features faster. This means that the cloud, and Windows Azure, can evolve and change rather quickly.

    I often hear developers exclaim that today’s Azure is nothing what they played with a year ago. That is because we are constantly working hard to move it forward.

    Here are some of the changes we just released:

    • Mobile Services: Android support, East Asia Region Support, iOS dev content
      • Windows Azure Mobile Services are designed to be the common backend for your mobile applications. We are committed to making it THE backend for your mobile apps, no matter what platform you run on. To that end we have shipping an Android SDK for the services (which joins the existing Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and iOS SDKs). The Android Client SDK is available on GitHub under the Apache 2.0 license. Because we have open sources all of our Azure SDKs we welcome contributions from the community.
      • We have also now deployed the Mobile Services to the East Asia Region, which is why I am here at TechDays in Hong Kong this week.
      • We have also updated a lot of iOS developer content for you to learn how to use the Mobile Services from an iOS platform. Check out the video series on building iOS applications with Mobile Services.
    • SQL Reporting Services: Support in the management portal
      • We now have full support for the SQL Reporting Services in the new portal. Previously you had to go to the old Siliverlight portal. This is great news as it makes it easier to work with because you don’t have to jump from one portal to the other. Many new customers don’t even know that there is an old portal.
    • Active Directory: Support in the azure management portal, user and domain management
      • We are rapidly improving the Active Directory feature set in Windows Azure. If you are an Office 365 customer, or you  create a new Windows Azure Active Directory, you can now manage users from the Azure portal. You can also use phone based two factor authentication (send an SMS code). Phone based two factor is becoming very common, and is a great tool to increase security for your mobile workforce.
      • You will also be able to sync your local active directory with your cloud AD with these updates.
      • And most importantly, in my mind, is the ability to federate online Microsoft services with Windows Azure Active Directory. This means that your developers and IT Pros can no log onto the Azure portal with their company credentials instead of their personal Microsoft accounts. This is a big step because it gives companies a great degree of control over who has access to what without having to manage yet another identity store.
    • Availability Monitoring for Cloud Services. Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and Mobile Services
      • We now have a new feature in preview called Availability Monitoring. This is an outside-in view of your services. It gives you an easy way to check the public HTTP/HTTPS endpoints to see if they are up, and what their current response time is. It is very easy to configure, and is a great tool to help manage the high uptime requirements your applications have.
    • Service Bus: New configuration tab and metrics
      • The Service Bus configuration tab now gives you more options. The one that I am most interested in is the ability to disable read/writes to a topic or a queue. This allows you to disable and enable queues in production to more easily control the system.
      • We have also added several metrics to the SB dashboard so you have an easy heads up view of what is going on.
    • Storage: Ability to download blobs directly in management portal
      • YEAH! We can now download blobs from the management portal! No more jumping into another app just to grab a blob we are looking at (like a log file).
    • Media Services: New monitoring metrics and quickstart experience
      • Media Services became generally available several months back. We have now improved the quickstart experience to help you getting started. We have also added new metrics for you to be able to see what is happening with your media on the dashboard.
    • Cloud Services: Support for .cer certificate files upload
      • For years now, when you needed to deploy a certificate you had to use a .pfx file. I don’t know how many hours I have spent helping developers understand the difference between a PFX and a CER file, and how to ‘convert’ to one. Well, wait no longer, you can now include a .cer file in your cloud service deployments. This is a small feature that is VERY nice.
    • Localization support for five new languages
      • Five more languages to the portal! We are working hard to make Windows Azure a truly global platform.
    • Windows Azure Store Support in 22 Additional Countries
      • Part of making a Windows Azure a true global platform is supporting the Windows Azure store in more countries. Running global services is tricky because of the wide variety of tax, income, privacy and other laws in each country. Not to mention currency issues in a fluid market. You don’t want to know how many lawyers we have engaged just to make Azure available in a single market.
      • The Widows Azure store is a collection of data and application components that you can buy from within the portal to enhance your cloud. For example, if you need more MySQL databases you can buy them there, or perhaps you want an advanced application monitoring suite. The great part is that not only is the buying and management experience baked into the portal, but the billing is too. So you have one bill for everything, which is very nice.

     

    If you haven’t looked at Azure recently, you may want to quickly stop by and see all of the new features we have added. It has never been easier to get started using the cloud.

    You can get a totally and truly free trial at http://aka.ms/AzureForFree.

    About

    Brian H. Prince is the Chief Technical Cloud Evangelist for Microsoft, based in the US. He gets super excited whenever he talks about technology, especially cloud computing, patterns, and practices. His job is to help customers strategically leverage technology, and help them bring their architecture to a super level. In a past life Brian was a part of super startups, super marketing firms, and super consulting firms. Much of his super architecture background includes building super scalable applications, application integration, and award winning web applications. All of them were super. Further, he is a co-founder of the non-profit organization CodeMash (www.codemash.org). He speaks at various international technology conferences. He only wishes his job didn’t require him to say ‘super’ so much. Brian is the co-author of “Azure in Action”, published by Manning Press. Brian holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science and Physics from Capital University, Columbus, Ohio. He is also a zealous gamer. For example, he is a huge fan of Fallout 3, Portal, and pretty much every other game he plays.