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Introduction to Windows Azure

Introduction to Windows Azure

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With the recent announcements regarding Azure availability in South Africa as well as the new feature advancements, I thought I would list all the new capabilities in summary format . In future weeks I will drill down into each of these in detail to give a full overview of Azure's capabilities. Let me know if there are any areas you want me to address first.

Here are the details:

  • Windows Azure Virtual Machines— Virtual Machines give you application mobility, allowing you to move your virtual hard disks (VHDs) back and forth between on-premises and the cloud.   Migrate existing workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SharePoint to the cloud, bring your own customized Windows Server or Linux images, or select from a gallery.

To start using Virtual Machines, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account.  Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

  • Windows Azure Virtual Network— This service provides you a simple way to create a private environment (called a virtual network or VNET for short) in Windows Azure and optionally connect it to your on-premises network using a VPN gateway. Within the virtual network you create, you have control over the network topology - for example, you can configure IP address ranges for the Virtual Machines or even specify your own DNS. For creating a secure connection with your corporate VPN gateway, the industry-standard IPSEC protocol is used. To start using Virtual Networks, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ page under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.
  • Storage—As an additional choice to our existing Geo-Redundant Storage option, Locally Redundant Storage is now available for customers who don’t require geo-replication and are looking for reduced storage costs.  Other storage updates include Blob Leases and Cross Storage Account Copy for blob storage, and Shared Access Signature (SAS) for Tables and Queues.
  • SQL Reporting—Now Generally Available with a fully backed SLA, SQL Reporting enables you to publish reports to the cloud or embed reports directly within on-premises applications that can be accessed via browser, mobile device or PC.
  • Caching—“Caching Preview” offers a new tenancy model, new features and performance improvements.  The Preview allows Caching to be deployed to web roles and to be co-located with other application components.  Additionally, a dedicated cache tier can be created for one or more applications from multiple worker roles providing almost unlimited cache sizes and scale.  This includes features such as notifications, tags, regions and high availability to ensure that your cached data is resilient. 
  • Windows Azure Web Sites—Build web sites and applications with this highly elastic solution that allows you to easily deploy with a few clicks.
    • Build modern applications using.NET, Node.js, or PHP, and connect with SQL Database or MySQL (offered as a service on Windows Azure by ClearDB).
    • Easily deploy using built-in integration with Git and Team Foundation Service, along with FTP. Integration with Microsoft WebMatrix also allows you to easily pull down your web sites locally to make changes and then easily deploy back to Windows Azure.
    • Deploy popular open source web apps like WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, and Drupal to the cloud.

To start using Web Sites, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ page under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

  • Compliance— The SSAE 16 (SOC 1 Type 2) audit report is now available for Windows Azure core services.  For more information, please visit the Windows Azure Trust Center.

Improved Tooling and Language Support:

  • Windows Azure Management Portal (Preview)-- The Preview Portal features rich scenario-based user interfaces, real-time monitoring charts, diagnostics data, notifications and alerts to manage the health of your application, enabling easy deployment, configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting of your applications. The Preview Portal supports the following services: Cloud Services, Virtual Machines (Preview), Web Sites (Preview), Virtual Network (Preview), SQL Database and Storage.
  • New tools, language support, and SDK—Windows Azure SDK June 2012 includes new developer capabilities for writing code against the latest service improvements with updated support for Java, PHP, and .NET, and the addition of Python as a supported language on Windows Azure.  Additionally, the SDK now provides 100% command line support for both Windows and Mac.

These solutions offer customers greater flexibility for spanning on-premises and cloud servers and deliver powerful enhancements for cloud applications. It also continues on our commitment to make Windows Azure an open platform.  We invite you to sign-up for these new previews and provide your feedback!

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