- “Rebranding” into Microsoft Azure from the previous Windows Azure
- Microsoft Azure Momentum on the Market
- The new Azure Management Portal (preview)
- New Azure features: IaaS, web, mobile and data announcements
Microsoft Announces New Features for Cloud Computing Service [CCTV America YouTube channel, April 3, 2014]
Day two of the Microsoft Build developer conference in San Francisco wrapped up with the company announcing 44 new services. Most of those are based on Microsoft Azure – it’s cloud computing platform that manages applications across data centers. CCTV’s Mark Niu reports from San Francisco.
Watch the first 10 minutes of this presentation for a brief summary of the latest state of Microsoft Azure: #ChefConf 2014: Mark Russinovich, “Microsoft Azure Group” [Chef YouTube channel, April 16, 2014]
Then here is a fast talk and Q&A on Azure with Scott Guthrie after his keynote preseantation at BUILD 2014:
Cloud Cover Live – Ask the Gu! [jlongo62 YouTube channel, published on April 21, 2014]
The original: Cloud Cover Live – Ask the Gu! [Channel 9, April 3, 2014]
- “Rebranding” into Microsoft Azure from the previous Windows Azure
- Microsoft Azure Momentum on the Market
- The new Azure Management Portal (preview)
- New Azure features: IaaS, web, mobile and data announcements
[2:45:47] long video record of the Microsoft Build Conference 2014 Day 2 Keynote [MSFT Technology News YouTube channel, recorded on April 3, published on April 7, 2014]
1. “Rebranding” into Microsoft Azure from the previous Windows Azure
Yes, you’ve noticed right: the Windows prefix has gone, and the full name is now only Microsoft Azure! The change happened on April 3 as evidenced by change of the cover photo on the Facebook site, now also called Microsoft Azure:
And it happened without any announcement or explanation as even the last, April 1 Microsoft video carried the Windows prefix: Tuesdays with Corey //build Edition
as well as the last, March 14 video ad: Get Your Big Bad Wolf On (Extended)
2. Microsoft Azure Momentum on the Market
The day began with Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group, touting Microsoft progress with Azure for the last 18 months when:
… we talked about our new strategy with Azure and our new approach, a strategy that enables me to use both infrastructure as a service and platform as a service capabilities together, a strategy that enables developers to use the best of the Windows ecosystem and the best of the Linux ecosystem together, and one that delivers unparalleled developer productivity and enables you to build great applications and services that work with every device …
- Last year … shipped more than 300 significant new features and releases
- … we’ve also been hard at work expanding the footprint of Azure around the world. The green circles you see on the slide here represent Azure regions, which are clusters of datacenters close together, and where you can go ahead and run your application code. Just last week, we opened two new regions, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. Today, we’re the only global, major cloud provider that operates in mainland China. And by the end of the year, we’ll have more than 16 public regions available around the world, enabling you to run your applications closer to your customers than ever before.
- More than 57 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are now deployed on Azure.
- Customers run more than 250,000 public-facing websites on Azure, and we now host more than 1 million SQL databases on Azure.
- More than 20 trillion objects are now stored in the Azure storage system. We have more than 300 million users, many of them — most of them, actually, enterprise users, registered with Azure Active Directory, and we process now more than 13 billion authentications per week.
- We have now more than 1 million developers registered with our Visual Studio Online service, which is a new service we launched just last November.
Let’s go beyond the big numbers, though, and look at some of the great experiences that have recently launched and are using the full power of Azure and the cloud.
“Titanfall” was one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year, and had a very successful launch a few weeks ago. “Titanfall” delivers an unparalleled multiplayer gaming experience, powered using Azure.
Let’s see a video of it in action, and hear what the developers who built it have to say.
[Titanfall and the Power of the Cloud [xbox YouTube channel, April 3, 2014]]
One of the key bets the developers of “Titanfall” made was for all game sessions on the cloud. In fact, you can’t play the game without the cloud, and that bet really paid off.
As you heard in the video, it enables much, much richer gaming experiences. Much richer AI experiences. And the ability to tune and adapt the game as more users use it.
To give you a taste of the scale, “Titanfall” had more than 100,000 virtual machines deployed and running on Azure on launch day. Which is sort of an unparalleled size in terms of a game launch experience, and the reviews of the game have been absolutely phenomenal.
Another amazing experience that recently launched and was powered using Azure was the Sochi Olympics delivered by NBC Sports.
NBC used Azure to stream all of the games both live and on demand to both Web and mobile devices. This was the first large-scale live event that was delivered entirely in the cloud with all of the streaming and encoding happening using Azure.
Traditionally, with live encoding, you typically run in an on-premises environment because it’s so latency dependent. With the Sochi Olympics, Azure enabled NBC to not only live encode in the cloud, but also do it across multiple Azure regions to deliver high-availability redundancy.
More than 100 million people watched the online experience, and more than 2.1 million viewers alone watched it concurrently during the U.S. versus Canada men’s hockey match, a new world record for online HD streaming.
RICK CORDELLA [Senior Vice President and General Manager of NBC Sports Digital]: The company bets about $1 billion on the Olympics each time it goes off. And we have 17 days to recoup that investment. Needless to say, there is no safety net when it comes to putting this content out there for America to enjoy. We need to make sure that content is out there, that it’s quality, that our advertisers and advertisements are being delivered to it. There really is no going back if something goes wrong.
The decision for that was taken more than a year ago: Windows Azure Teams Up With NBC Sports Group [Microsoft Azure YouTube channel, April 9, 2013]
3. The new Azure Management Portal (preview)
But in fact a new way of providing a comprehensive set of fully-integrated backend services had significantly bigger impact on the audience of developers. According to Microsoft announces new cloud experience and tools to deliver the cloud without complexity [The Official Microsoft Blog, April 3, 2014]
The following post is from Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Microsoft.
On Thursday at Build in San Francisco, we took an important step by unveiling a first-of-its kind cloud environment within Microsoft Azure that provides a fully integrated cloud experience – bringing together cross-platform technologies, services and tools that enable developers and businesses to innovate with enterprise-grade scalability at startup speed. Announced today, our new Microsoft Azure Preview [Management]Portal is an important step forward in delivering our promise of the cloud without complexity.
When cloud computing was born, it was hailed as the solution that developers and business had been waiting for – the promise of a quick and easy way to get more from your business-critical apps without the hassle and cost of infrastructure. But as the industry transitions toward mobile-first, cloud-first business models and scenarios, the promise of “quick and easy” is now at stake. There’s no question that developing for a world that is both mobile-first and cloud-first is complicated. Developers are managing thousands of virtual machines, cobbling together management and automation solutions, and working in unfamiliar environments just to make their apps work in the cloud – driving down productivity as a result.
Many cloud vendors tout the ease and cost savings of the cloud, but they leave customers without the tools or capabilities to navigate the complex realities of cloud computing. That’s why today we are continuing down a path of rapid innovation. In addition to our groundbreaking new Microsoft Azure Preview [Management] Portal, we announced several enhancements our customers need to fully tap into the power of the cloud. These include:
- Dozens of enhancements to our Azure services across Web, mobile, data and our infrastructure services
- Further commitment to building the most open and flexible cloud with Azure support for automation software from Puppet Labs and Chef.
- We’ve removed the throttle off our Application Insights preview, making it easier for all developers to build, manage and iterate on their apps in the cloud with seamless integration into the IDE
<For details see the separate section 4. New Azure features: IaaS, web, mobile and data announcements>
Here is a brief presentation by a Brazilian specialist: Microsoft Azure [Management] Portal First Touch [Bruno Vieira YouTube channel, April 3, 2014]
From Microsoft evolves the cloud experience for customers [press release, April 3, 2014]
… Thursday at Build 2014, Microsoft Corp. announced a first-of-its-kind cloud experience that brings together cross-platform technologies, services and tools, enabling developers and businesses to innovate at startup speed via a new Microsoft Azure Preview [Management] Portal.
In addition, the company announced several new milestones in Visual Studio Online and .NET that give developers access to the most complete platform and tools for building in the cloud. Thursday’s announcements are part of Microsoft’s broader vision to erase the boundaries of cloud development and operational management for customers.
“Developing for a mobile-first, cloud-first world is complicated, and Microsoft is working to simplify this world without sacrificing speed, choice, cost or quality,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president at Microsoft. “Imagine a world where infrastructure and platform services blend together in one seamless experience, so developers and IT professionals no longer have to work in disparate environments in the cloud. Microsoft has been rapidly innovating to solve this problem, and we have taken a big step toward that vision today.”
One simplified cloud experience
The new Microsoft Azure Preview [Management] Portal provides a fully integrated experience that will enable customers to develop and manage an application in one place, using the platform and tools of their choice. The new portal combines all the components of a cloud application into a single development and management experience. New components include the following:
Simplified Resource Management. Rather than managing standalone resources such as Microsoft Azure Web Sites, Visual Studio Projects or databases, customers can now create, manage and analyze their entire application as a single resource group in a unified, customized experience, greatly reducing complexity while enabling scale. Today, the new Azure Manager is also being released through the latest Azure SDK for customers to automate their deployment and management from any client or device.
Integrated billing. A new integrated billing experience enables developers and IT pros to take control of their costs and optimize their resources for maximum business advantage.
Gallery. A rich gallery of application and services from Microsoft and the open source community, this integrated marketplace of free and paid services enables customers to leverage the ecosystem to be more agile and productive.
Visual Studio Online. Microsoft announced key enhancements through the Microsoft Azure Preview [Management] Portal, available Thursday. This includes Team Projects supporting greater agility for application lifecycle management and the lightweight editor code-named “Monaco” for modifying and committing Web project code changes without leaving Azure. Also included is Application Insights, an analytics solution that collects telemetry data such as availability, performance and usage information to track an application’s health. Visual Studio integration enables developers to surface this data from new applications with a single click.
Building an open cloud ecosystem
Showcasing Microsoft’s commitment to choice and flexibility, the company announced new open source partnerships with Chef and Puppet Labs to run configuration management technologies in Azure Virtual Machines. Using these community-driven technologies, customers will now be able to more easily deploy and configure in the cloud. In addition, today Microsoft announced the release of Java Applications to Microsoft Azure Web Sites, giving Microsoft even broader support for Web applications.
Bill Staples then came on stage to show off the new Azure [management] portal design and features. Bill walked through a number of the new innovations in the portal, such as improved UX, app insights, “blade” views [the “blade” term is used for the dropdown that allows a drilldown], etc. A screen shot of the new portal is shown below.
Bill also walked through the comprehensive analytics (such as compute and billing) that are now available on the portal. He also walked through “Application Insights,” which is a great way to instrument your code in both the portal and in your code with easy-to-use, pre-defined code snippets. He completed his demo walkthrough by showing the Azure [management] portal as a “NOC” [Network Operations Center] view on a big-screen TV.
BILL STAPLES at [1:43:39]: Now, to conclude the operations part of this demo, I wanted to show you an experience for how the new Azure Portal works on a different device. You’ve seen it on the desktop, but it works equally well on a tablet device, that is really touch friendly. Check it out on your Surface or your iPad, it works great on both devices.
But we’re thinking as well if you’ve got a big-screen TV or a projector lying around your team room, you might want to think about putting the Microsoft Azure portal as your own personal NOC.
In this case, I’ve asked the Office developer team if we could have access to their live site log. So they made me promise, do not hit the stop button or the delete button, which I promised to do.
[1:44:24] This is actually the Office developer log site. And you can see it’s got almost 10 million hits already today running on Azure Websites. So very high traffic.
They’ve customized it to show off the browser usage on their website. Imagine we’re in a team Scrum with the Office developer guys and we check out, you know, how is the website doing? We’ve got some interesting trends here.
In fact, there was a spike of sessions it looks like going on about a week ago. And page views, that’s kind of a small part. It would be nice to know which page it was that spiked a week ago. Let’s go ahead and customize that.
This screen is kind of special because it has touch screen. So I can go ahead and let’s make that automatically expand there. Now we see a bigger view. Wow, that was a really big spike last week. What page was that? We can click into it. We get the full navigation experience, same on the desktop, as well as, oh, look at that. There’s a really popular blog post that happened about a week ago. What was that? Something about announcing Office on the iPad you love. Makes sense, huh? So we can see the Azure Portal in action here as the Office developer team might imagine it. [1:45:44]
The last thing I want to show is the Azure Gallery.
We populated the gallery with all of the first-party Microsoft Azure services, as well as the [services from] great partners that we’ve worked with so far in creating this gallery.
And what you’re seeing right here is just the beginning. We’ve got the core set of DevOps experiences built out, as well as websites, SQL, and MySQL support. But over the coming months, we’ll be integrating all of the developer and IT services in Microsoft as well as the partner services into this experience.
Let me just conclude by reminding us what we’ve seen. We’ve seen a first-of-its-kind experience from Microsoft that fuses our world-class developer services together with Azure to provide an amazing dev-ops experience where you can enjoy the entire lifecycle from development, deployment, operations, gathering analytics, and iterating right here in one experience.
We’ve seen an application-centric experience that brings together all the dev platform and infrastructure services you know and love into one common shell. And we’ve seen a new application model that you can describe declaratively. And through the command line or programmatically, build out services in the cloud with tremendous ease. [1:47:12]
More information on the new Azure [Management] Portal:
- From Visual Studio Online Integration in the Azure [management] portal [by Brian Harry (MSFT) on MSDN Blogs, April 3, 2014]
Today, at Build, we unveiled a new Azure [Management] Portal experience we are building. I want to give you some insights into the work that VS Online team is doing to help with it. I’m not on the Azure team and am no expert on how they’d like to describe to the world, so please take any comments I make here about the new Azure portal as my perspective on it and not necessarily an official one.
Bill Staples first presented to me almost a year ago an idea of creating a new portal experience for Azure designed to be an optimal experience for DevOps. It would provide everything a DevOps team needs to do modern cloud based development. Capabilities to provision dev and test resources, development and collaboration capabilities, build, release and deployment capabilities, application telemetry and management capabilities and more. Pretty quickly it became clear to me that if we could do it, it would be awesome. An incredibly productive and easy way for devs to do soup to nuts app development.
What we demoed today (and made available via http://portal.azure.com”) is the first incarnation of that. My team (the VS Online Team) has worked very hard over the past many months with the Azure team to build the beginnings of the experience we hope to bring to you. It’s very early and it’s nowhere near done but it’s definitely something we’d love to start getting some feedback on.
For now, it’s limited to Azure websites, SQL databases and a subset of the VS Online capabilities. If you are a VS Online/TFS user, think of this as a companion to Visual Studio, Visual Studio Online and all of the tools you are used to. When you create a team project in the Azure portal, it’s a VS Online Team Project like any other and is accessible from the Azure portal, the VS Online web UI, Visual Studio, Eclipse and all the other ways your Visual Studio Online assets are available. For now, though, there are a few limitations – which we are working hard to address. We are in the middle of adding Azure Active Directory support to Visual Studio Online and, for a variety of reasons, chose to limit the new portal to only work with VS Online accounts linked to Azure Active Directory.
The best way to ensure this is just to create a new Team Project and a new VS Online account from within the new Azure portal. You will need to be logged in to the Azure portal with an identity known to your Azure Active Directory tenant and to add new users, rather than add them directly in Visual Studio Online, you will add them through Azure Active directory. One of the ramifications of this, for now, is that you can’t use an existing VS Online account in the new portal – you must create a new one. Clearly that’s a big limitation and one we are working hard to remove. We will enable you to link existing VS Online accounts to Active Directory we just don’t have it yet – stay tuned.
I’ll do a very simple tour. You can also watch Brian Keller’s Channel9 video.
- Enabling DevOps with Azure and Visual Studio Online [jlongo62 YouTube channel, published on April 21, 2014]
- Building your Dream DevOps Dashboard with the new Azure Preview Portal [by Brian Keller [MSFT] on MSDN Blogs, April 10, 2014]
- Azure [Management] Portal Preview and Visual Studio Online: Adding a user [by Buck Hodges (MSFT) on MSDN Blogs, April 3, 2014]
4. New Azure features: IaaS, web, mobile and data announcements
According to Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group:
[IaaS] First up, let’s look at some of the improvements we’re making with our infrastructure features and some of the great things we’re enabling with virtual machines.
Azure enables you to run both Windows and Linux virtual machines in the cloud. You can run them as stand-alone servers, or join them together to a virtual network, including one that you can optionally bridge to an on-premises networking environment.
This week, we’re making it even easier for developers to create and manage virtual machines in Visual Studio without having to leave the VS IDE: You can now create, destroy, manage and debug any number of VMs in the cloud. (Applause.)
Prior to today, it was possible to create reusable VM image templates, but you had to write scripts and manually attach things like storage drives to them. Today, we’re releasing support that makes it super-easy to capture images that can contain any number of storage drives. Once you have this image, you can then very easily take it and create any number of VM instances from it, really fast, and really easy. (Applause.)
Starting today, you can also now easily configure VM images using popular frameworks like Puppet, Chef, and our own PowerShell and VSD tools. These tools enable you to avoid having to create and manage lots of separate VM images. Instead, you can define common settings and functionality using modules that can cut across every type of VM you use.
You can also create modules that define role-specific behavior, and all these modules can be checked into source control and they can also then be deployed to a Puppet Master or Chef server.
And one of the things we’re doing this week is making it incredibly easy within Azure to basically spin up a server farm and be able to automatically deploy, provision and manage all of these machines using these popular tools.
We’re also excited to announce the general availability of our auto-scale service, as well as a bunch of great virtual networking capabilities including point-to-site VPN support going GA, new dynamic routing, subnet migration, as well as static internal IP address. And we think the combination of this really gives you a very flexible environment, as you saw, a very open environment, and lets you run pretty much any Windows or Linux workload in the cloud.
So we think infrastructure as a service is super-flexible, and it really kind of enables you to manage your environments however you want.
We also, though, provide prebuilt services and runtime environments that you can use to assemble your applications as well, and we call these platform as a service [PaaS] capabilities.
One of the benefits of these prebuilt services is that they enable you to focus on your application and not have to worry about the infrastructure underneath it.
We handle patching, load balancing, high availability and auto scale for you. And this enables you to work faster and do more.
What I want to do is just spend a little bit of time talking through some of these platform as a service capabilities, so we’re going to start talking about our Web functionality here today.
[Web] One of the most popular PaaS services that we now have on Windows Azure is something we call the Azure Website Service. This enables you to very easily deploy Web applications written in a variety of different languages and host them in the cloud. We support .NET, NOJS, PHP, Python, and we’re excited this week to also announce that we’re adding Java language support as well.
This enables you as a developer to basically push any type of application into Azure into our runtime environment, and basically host it to any number of users in the cloud.
Couple of the great features we have with Azure include auto-scale capability. What this means is you can start off running your application, for example, in a single VM. As more load increases to it, we can then automatically scale up multiple VMs for you without you having to write any script or take any action yourself. And if you get a lot of load, we can scale up even more.
You can basically configure how many VMs you maximally want to use, as well as what the burn-down rate is. And as your traffic — and this is great because it enables you to not only handle large traffic spikes and make sure that your apps are always responsive, but the nice thing about auto scale is that when the traffic drops off, or maybe during the night when it’s a little bit less, we can automatically scale down the number of machines that you need, which means that you end up saving money and not having to pay as much.
One of the really cool features that we’ve recently introduced with websites is something we call our staging support. This solves kind of a pretty common problem with any Web app today, which is there’s always someone hitting it. And how do you stage the deployments of new code that you roll out so that you don’t ever have a site in an intermediate state and that you can actually deploy with confidence at any point in the day?
And what staging support enables inside of Azure is for you to create a new staging version of your Web app with a private URL that you can access and use to test. And this allows you to basically deploy your application to the staging environment, get it ready, test it out before you finally send users to it, and then basically you can push one button or send a single command called swap where we’ll basically rotate the incoming traffic from the old production site to the new staged version.
What’s nice is we still keep your old version around. So if you discover once you go live you still have a bug that you missed, you can always swap back to the previous state. Again, this allows you to deploy with a lot of confidence and make sure that your users are always seeing a consistent experience when they hit your app.
Another cool feature that we’ve recently introduced is a feature we call Web Jobs. And this enables you to run background tasks that are non-HTTP responsive that you can actually run in the background. So if it takes a while to run it, this is a great way you can offload that work so that you’re not stalling your actual request response thread pool.
Basically, you know, common scenario we see for a lot of people is if they want to process something in the background, when someone submits something, for example, to the website, they can go ahead and simply drop an item into a queue or into the storage account, respond back down to the user, and then with one of these Web jobs, you can very easily run background code that can pull that queue message and actually process it in an offline way.
And what’s nice about Web jobs is you can run them now in the same virtual machines that host your websites. What that means is you don’t have to spin up your own separate set of virtual machines, and again, enables you to save money and provides a really nice management experience for it.
The last cool feature that we’ve recently introduced is something we call traffic manager support. With Traffic Manager, you can take advantage of the fact that Azure runs around the world, and you can spin up multiple instances of your website in multiple different regions around the world with Azure.
What you can then do is use Traffic Manager so you can have a single DNS entry that you then map to the different instances around the world. And what Traffic Manager does is gives you a really nice way that you can actually automatically, for example, route all your North America users to one of the North American versions of your app, while people in Europe will go routed to the European version of your app. That gives you better performance, response and latency.
Traffic Manager is also smart enough so that if you ever have an issue with one of the instances of your app, it can automatically remove it from those rotations and send users to one of the other active apps within the system. So this gives you also a nice way you can fail over in the event of an outage.
And the great thing about Traffic Manager, now, is you can use it not just for virtual machines and cloud services, but we’ve also now enabled it to work fully with websites.
[From BUILD Day 2: Keynote Summary [by Steve Fox [MSFT] on MSDN Blogs, April 3, 2014]]
Scott then invited Mads Kristensen on stage to walk through a few of the features that Scott discussed at a higher level. Specifically, he walked through the new ASP.NET templates emphasizing the creation of the DB layer and then showing PowerShell integration to manage your web site. He then showed Angular integration with Azure Web sites, emphasizing easy and dynamic ways to update your site showing deep browser and Visual Studio integration (Browser Link), showing updates that are made in the browser show up in the code in Visual Studio. Very cool!!
He also showed how you can manage staging and production sites by using the “swap” functionality built into the Azure Web sites service. He also showed Web Jobs to show how you can also run background jobs and Traffic Manager functionality to ensure your customers have the best performing web site in their regions.
So as Mads showed, there are a lot of great features that we’re kind of unveiling this week. A lot of great announcements that go with it.
These include the general availability release of auto-scale support for websites, as well as the general availability release of our new Traffic Manager support for websites as well. As you saw there, we also have Web Job support, and one of the things that we didn’t get to demo which is also very cool is backup support so that automatically we can have both your content as well as your databases backed up when you run them in our Websites environment as well.
Lots of great improvements also coming in terms of from an offer perspective. One thing a lot of people have asked us for with Websites is the ability not only to use SSL, but to use SSL without having to pay for it. So one of the cool things that we’re adding with Websites and it goes live today is we’re including one IP address-based SSL certificate and five SNI-based SSL certificates at no additional cost to every Website instance. (Applause.)
Throughout the event here, you’re also going to hear a bunch of great sessions on some of the improvements we’re making to ASP.NET. In terms of from a Web framework perspective, we’ve got general availability release of ASP.NET MVC 5.1, Web API 2.1, Identity 2.0, as well as Web Pages 3.1 So a lot of great, new features to take advantage of.
As you saw Mads demo, a lot of great features inside Visual Studio including the ability every time you create an ASP.NET project now to automatically create an Azure Website as part of that flow. Remember, every Azure customer gets 10 free Azure Websites that you can use forever. So even if you’re not an MSDN customer, you can take advantage of that feature in order to set up a Web environment literally every time you create a new project. So pretty exciting stuff.
So that was one example of some of the PaaS capabilities that we have inside Azure.
[Mobile] I’m going to move now into the mobile space and talk about some of the great improvements that we’re making there as well.
One of the great things about Azure is the fact that it makes it really easy for you to build back ends for your mobile applications and devices. And one of the cool things you can do now is you can develop those back ends with both .NET as well as NOJS, and you can use Visual Studio or any other text editor on any other operating system to actually deploy those applications into Azure.
And once they’re deployed, we make it really easy for you to go ahead and connect them to any type of device out there in the world.
Now, some of the great things you can do with this is take advantage of some of the features that we have, which provide very flexible data handling. So we have built-in support for Azure storage, as well as our SQL database, which is our PaaS database offering for relational databases, as well as take advantage of things like MongoDB and other popular NoSQL solutions.
We support the ability not only to reply to messages that come to us, but also to push messages to devices as well. One of the cool features that Mobile Services can take advantage of — and it’s also available as a stand-alone feature — is something we call notification hubs. And this basically allows you to send a single message to a notification hub and then broadcast it to, in some cases, devices that might be registered to it.
We also support with Mobile Services a variety of flexible authentication options. So when we first launched mobile services, we added support for things like Facebook login, Google ID, Twitter ID, as well as Microsoft Accounts.
One of the things we’re excited to demo here today is Active Directory support as well. So this enables you to build new applications that you can target, for example, your employees or partners, to enable them to sign in using the same enterprise credentials that they use in an on-premises Active Directory environment.
What’s great is we’re using standard OAuth tokens as part of that. So once you authenticate, you can take that token, you can use it to also provide authorization access to your own custom back-end logic or data stores that you host inside Azure.
We’re also making it really easy so that you can also take that same token and you can use it to access Office 365 APIs and be able to integrate that user’s data as well as functionality inside your application as well.
The beauty about all of this is it works with any device. So whether it’s a Windows device or an iOS device or an Android device, you can go ahead and take advantage of this capability.
[From BUILD Day 2: Keynote Summary [by Steve Fox [MSFT] on MSDN Blogs, April 3, 2014]]
Yavor Georgiev then came on stage to walk through a Mobile Services demo. He showed off a new Mobile Services Visual Studio template, test pages with API docs, local and remote debugging capabilities, and a LOB app that enables Facilities departments to manage service requests—this showed off a lot of the core ASP.NET/MVC features along with a quick publish service to your Mobile Services service in Azure. Through this app, he showed how to use Active Directory to build the app—which prompts you to log into the app with your corp/AD credentials to use the app. He then showed how the app integrates with SharePoint/O365 such that the request leverages the SharePoint REST APIs to publish a doc to a Facilities doc repository. He also showed how you can re-use the core code through Xamarin to repurpose the code for iOS.
The app is shown here native in Visual Studio.
This app view is the cross-platform build using Xamarin.
Kudos to Yavor! This was an awesome demo that showcases how far Mobile Services has come in a short period of time—love the extensibility and the cross-platform capabilities. Very nice!
One of the things that kind of Yavor showed there is just sort of how easy it is now to build enterprise-grade mobile applications using Azure and Visual Studio.
And one of the key kind of lynchpins in terms of from a technology standpoint that really makes this possible is our Azure Active Directory Service. This basically provides an Active Directory in the cloud that you can use to authenticate any device. What makes it powerful is the fact that you can synchronize it with your existing on-premises Active Directory. And we support both synch options, including back to Windows Server 2003 instances, so it doesn’t even require a relatively new Windows Server, it works with anything you’ve got.
We also support a federate option as well if you want to use ADFS. Once you set that environment up, then all your users are available to be authenticated in the cloud and what’s great is we ship SDKs that work with all different types of devices, and enables you to integrate authentication into those applications. And so you don’t everyone have to have your back end hosted on Azure, you can take advantage of this capability to enable single sign-on with any enterprise credential.
And what’s great is once you get that token, that same token can then be used to program against Office 365 APIs as well as the other services across Microsoft. So this provides a really great opportunity not only for building enterprise line-of-business apps, but also for ISVs that want to be able to build SaaS solutions as well as mobile device apps that integrate and target enterprise customers as well.
[From BUILD Day 2: Keynote Summary [by Steve Fox [MSFT] on MSDN Blogs, April 3, 2014]]
Scott then invited Grant Peterson from DocuSign on stage to discuss how they are using Azure, who demoed AD integration with DocuSign’s iOS app. Nice!
This is really huge for those of you building apps that are cross-platform but have big investments in AD and also provides you as developers a way to reach enterprise audiences.
So I think one of the things that’s pretty cool about that scenario is both the opportunity it offers every developer that wants to reach an enterprise audience. The great thing is all of those 300 million users that are in Azure Active Directory today and the millions of enterprises that have already federated with it are now available for you to build both mobile and Web applications against and be able to offer to them an enterprise-grade solution to all of your ISV-based applications.
That really kind of changes one of the biggest concerns that people end up having with enterprise apps with SaaS into a real asset where you can make it super-easy for them to go ahead and integrate and be able to do it from any device.
And one of the things you might have noticed there in the code that Grant showed was that it was actually all done on the client using Objective-C, and that’s because we have a new Azure Active Directory iOS SDK as well as an Android SDK in addition to our Windows SDK. And so you can use and integrate with Azure Active Directory from any device, any language, any tool.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the great mobile announcements that we’re making today. Yavor showed we now have .NET backend support, single sign-on with Active Directory.
One of the features we didn’t get a chance to show, but you can learn more about in the breakout talk is offline data sync. So we also now have built into Mobile Services the ability to sync and handle disconnected states with data. And then, obviously, the Visual Studio and remote debugging capabilities as well.
We’ve got not only the Azure SDKs for Azure Active Directory, but we also now have Office 365 API integration. We’re also really excited to announce the general availability or our Azure AD Premium release. This provides enterprises management capabilities that they can actually also use and integrate with your applications, and enables IT to also feel like they can trust the applications and the SaaS solutions that their users are using.
And then we have a bunch of great improvements with notification hubs including Kindle support as well as Visual Studio integration.
So a lot of great features. You can learn about all of them in the breakout talks this week.
So we’ve talked about Web, we’ve talked about mobile when we talk about PaaS.
[Data] I want to switch gears now and talk a little bit about data, which is pretty fundamental and integral to building any type of application.
And with Azure, we support a variety of rich ways to handle data ranging from unstructured, semistructured, to relational. One of the most popular services you heard me talk about at the beginning of the talk is our SQL database story. We’ve got over a million SQL databases now hosted on Azure. And it’s a really easy way for you to spin up a database, and better yet, it’s a way that we then manage for you. So we do handle things like high availability and patching.
You don’t have to worry about that. Instead, you can focus on your application and really be productive.
We’ve got a whole bunch of great SQL improvements that we’re excited to announce this week. I’m going to walk through a couple of them real quickly.
One of them is we’re increasing the database size that we support with SQL databases. Previously, we only supported up to 150 gigs. We’re excited to announce that we’re increasing that to support 500 gigabytes going forward. And we’re also delivering a new 99.95 percent SLA as part of that. So this now enables you to run even bigger applications and be able to do it with high confidence in the cloud. (Applause.)
Another cool feature we’re adding is something we call Self-Service Restore. I don’t know if you ever worked on a database application where you’ve written code like this, hit go, and then suddenly had a very bad feeling because you realized you omitted the where clause and you just deleted your entire table. (Laughter.)
And sometimes you can go and hopefully you have backups. This is usually the point when you discover when you don’t have backups.
And one of the things that we built in as part of the Self-Service Restore feature is automatic backups for you. And we actually let you literally roll back the clock, and you can choose what time of the day you want to roll it back to. We save up to I think 31 days of backups. And you can basically rehydrate a new database based on whatever time of the day you wanted to actually restore from. And then, hopefully, your life ends up being a lot better than it started out.
This is just a built-in feature. You don’t have to turn it on. It’s just sort of built in, something you can take advantage of. (Applause.)
Another great feature that we’re building in is something we call active geo-replication. What this lets you do now is you can actually go ahead and run SQL databases in multiple Azure regions around the world. And you can set it up to automatically replicate your databases for you.
And this is basically an asynchronous replication. You can basically have your primary in rewrite mode, and then you can actually have your secondary and you can have multiple secondaries in read-only mode. So you can still actually be accessing the data in read-only mode elsewhere.
In the event that you have a catastrophic issue in, say, one region, say a natural disaster hits, you can go ahead and you can initiate the failover automatically to one of your secondary regions. This basically allows you to continue moving on without having to worry about data loss and gives you kind of a really nice, high-availability solution that you can take advantage of.
One of the things that’s nice about Azure’s regions is we try to make sure we have multiple regions in each geography. So, for example, we have two regions that are at least 500 miles away in Europe, and in North America, and similarly with Australia, Japan and China. And what that means is that you know if you do need to fail over, your data is never leaving the geo-political area that it’s based in. And if you’re hosted in Europe, you don’t have to worry about your data ever leaving Europe, similarly for the other geo-political entities that are out there.
So this gives you a way now with high confidence that you can store your data and know that you can fail over at any point in time.
In addition to some of these improvements with SQL databases, we also have a host of great improvements coming with HDInsight, which is our big data analytics engine. This runs standard Hadoop instance and runs it as a managed service, so we do all the patching and management for you.
We’re excited to announce the GA of Hadoop 2.2 support. We also have now .NET 4.5 installed and APIs available so you can now write your MapReduce jobs using .NET 4.5.
We’re also adding audit and operation history support, a bunch of great improvements with Hive, and we’re now Yarn-enabling the cluster so you can actually run more software on it as well.
And we’re also excited to announce a bunch of improvements in the storage space, including the general availability of our read-access geo-redundant storage option.
So we’ve kind of done a whole bunch of kind of deep dives into a whole bunch of the Azure features.
- Announcing release of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC and Azure SDK 2.3 [Windows Azure Blog, April 4, 2014]
- Deep dive: Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC and Azure SDK 2.3 [Windows Azure Blog, April 9, 2014]
- Azure Updates: Web Sites, VMs, Mobile Services, Notification Hubs, Storage, VNets, Scheduler, AutoScale and More [ScottGu’s Blog, April 14, 2014] [Data]
It has been a really busy last 10 days for the Azure team. This blog post quickly recaps a few of the significant enhancements we’ve made. These include:
- [Web] Web Sites: SSL included, Traffic Manager, Java Support, Basic Tier
- [IaaS] Virtual Machines: Support for Chef and Puppet extensions, Basic Pricing tier for Compute Instances
- [IaaS] Virtual Network: General Availability of DynamicRouting VPN Gateways and Point-to-Site VPN
- [Mobile] Mobile Services: Preview of Visual Studio support for .NET, Azure Active Directory integration and Offline support;
- [Mobile] Notification Hubs: Support for Kindle Fire devices and Visual Studio Server Explorer integration
- [IaaS] [Web] Autoscale: General Availability release
- [Data] Storage: General Availability release of Read Access Geo Redundant Storage
- [Mobile] Active Directory Premium: General Availability release
- Scheduler service: General Availability release
- Automation: Preview release of new Azure Automation service
All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note that some features are still in preview). Below are more details about them:
- [Web] Azure Web Sites New Basic Pricing Tier [Windows Azure Blog, April 21, 2014]
… With the April updates to Microsoft Azure, Azure Web Sites offers a new pricing tier called Basic. The Basic pricing tier is designated for production sites, supporting smaller sites, as well as development and testing scenarios. … Which pricing tier is right for me? … The new pricing tier is a great benefit to many customers, offering some high-end features at a reasonable cost. We hope this new offering will enable a better deployment for all of you.
- [Web] Java on Azure Web Sites [Windows Azure Blog, April 4, 2014]
Microsoft is launching support for Java-based web sites on Azure Web Sites. This capability is intended to satisfy many common Java scenarios combined with the manageability and easy scaling options from Azure Web Sites.
The addition of Java is available immediately on all tiers for no additional cost. It offers new possibilities to host your pre-existing Java web applications. New Java web site development on Azure is easy using the Java Azure SDK which provides integration with Azure services.
- [Web] Introducing Web Hosting Plans for Azure Web Sites [Windows Azure Blog, April 4, 2014]
With the latest release of Azure Web Sites and the new Azure Portal Preview we are introducing a new concept: Web Hosting Plans. A Web Hosting Plan (WHP) allows you to group and scale sites independently within a subscription.
- Microsoft Azure Load Balancing Services [Windows Azure Blog, April 8, 2014]
Microsoft Azure offers load balancing services for [IaaS] virtual machines (IaaS) and [Web] cloud services (PaaS) hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Load balancing allows your application to scale and provides resiliency to application failures among other benefits.
The load balancing services can be accessed by specifying input endpoints on your services either via the Microsoft Azure Portal or via the service model of your application. Once a hosted service with one or more input endpoints is deployed in Microsoft Azure, it automatically configures the load balancing services offered by Microsoft Azure platform. To get the benefit of resiliency / redundancy of your services, you need to have at least two virtual machines serving the same endpoint.
- [Web] What’s New for ASP.NET and Web in Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 and Beyond [jlongo62 YouTube channel, published on April 22, 2014]
- [Mobile] Push Notifications Using Notification Hub and .NET Backend [Azure Mobile Services Team Blog, April 8, 2014]
When creating a Azure Mobile Service, a Notification Hub is automatically created as well enabling large scale push notifications to devices across any mobile platform (Android, iOS, Windows Store apps, and Windows Phone). For a background on Notification Hubs, see this overview as well as these tutorials and guides, and Scott Guthrie’s blog Broadcast push notifications to millions of mobile devices using Windows Azure Notification Hubs.
Let’s look at how devices register for notification and how to send notifications to registered devices using the .NET backend.
- [Mobile] How to create Universal applications with Azure Mobile Services that leverage push notifications and database insertion and data retrieval [by Bruno Terkalay on MSDN Blogs, April 13, 2014]
- Azure SQL Database introduces new service tiers [Windows Azure Blog, April 24, 2014]
New tiers improve customer experience and provide more business continuity options
To better serve your needs for more flexibility, Microsoft Azure SQL Database is adding new service tiers, Basic and Standard, to work alongside its Premium tier, which is currently in preview. Together these service tiers will help you more easily support the needs of database workloads and application patterns built on Microsoft Azure. … Previews for all three tiers are available today.
The Basic, Standard, and Premium tiers are designed to deliver more predictable performance for light-weight to heavy-weight transactional application demands. Additionally, the new tiers offer a spectrum of business continuity features, a [Data] stronger uptime SLA at 99.95%, and larger database sizes up to 500 GB for less cost. The new tiers will also help remove costly workarounds and offer an improved billing experience for you.
- SQL Database updates coming soon to the Premium preview [Windows Azure Blog, April 4, 2014]
… [Data] Active Geo-Replication: …
… [Data] Self-service Restore: …
Stay tuned to the Azure blog for more details on SQL Database later this month!
Also, if you haven’t tried Azure SQL Database yet, it’s a great time to start and try the Premium tier! Learn more today!
- What’s new in the cluster versions provided by HDInsight? [Azure article, April 3, 2014]
Azure HDInsight now supports [Data] Hadoop 2.2 with HDInsight cluster version 3.0 and takes full advantage of these platform to provide a range of significant benefits to customers. These include, most notably:
- Microsoft Avro Library: …
[Data] YARN: A new, general-purpose, distributed, application management framework that has replaced the classic Apache Hadoop MapReduce framework for processing data in Hadoop clusters. It effectively serves as the Hadoop operating system, and takes Hadoop from a single-use data platform for batch processing to a multi-use platform that enables batch, interactive, online and stream processing. This new management framework improves scalability and cluster utilization according to criteria such as capacity guarantees, fairness, and service-level agreements.
High Availability: …
[Data] Hive performance: Order of magnitude improvements to Hive query response times (up to 40x) and to data compression (up to 80%) using the Optimized Row Columnar (ORC) format.
Pig, Sqoop, Qozie, Ambari: …