Microsoft’s Windows Azure Team rolled out a monumental “Spring Wave” of additions and upgrades to its formerly PaaS-centric cloud services in a move to broaden its appeal to developers, IT managers, enterprise CIOs and other C-level execs. Highlights include:
- Durable Windows and Linux virtual machines (WAVMs) from portable *.vhd images, which you can download and run on-premises without modification, deliver long-awaited IaaS features without cloud lock-in.
- Data-Disks you attach to WAVMs and then mount and format as drives enable specifying optional geo-replication support to direct Windows Azure Backup to continuously replicate data for backup to a secondary data center at least 400 miles from your primary data center.
- Windows Azure Active Directory (WAzAD) and virtual networks and enable cross-premises connectivity for enterprise-grade hybrid clouds.
- An HTML 5 management portal with built-in monitoring features enables tablet and smartphone devices, as well as PCs, to shepherd WAVMs, cloud services and storage (see Figure 1).
- REST management APIs with Powershell for Windows and downloadable BASH for Mac and Unix tools make it easier to automate administrative operations.
- Windows Azure SDK 1.7 installs side-by-side with v1.6 and provides tooling support for Visual Studio 2010 and 2012 RC; users can select which SDK to use when creating a new project.
- A distributed cache feature provides a low-latency, elastic cache to which you can allocate a percentage of your cloud service’s memory (called colocation) or add memory from new cache worker roles, devoted solely to caching.
- A new Windows Azure SDK for Python supports Python, Django, and IPython Notebook with Windows, Mac and Linux installers to broaden the development and device spectrum.
- A tenfold reduction in transaction charges, now $0.10 per million, reduces the cost of Windows Azure storage.
- New locally redundant storage (LRS) provides a 23% to 34% discount over the cost of geo-redundant storage for users who are willing to sacrifice recovery from a single data center wipeout.
- The release of SQL Reporting, formerly SQL Azure Reporting Services, means users will incur charges of $0.88 per hour for up to 200 reports per hour starting on August 1.
- Windows Azure Media Services, presently in the public preview stage, enables building workflows for creation, management and distribution of media.
WAVM users can select a Linux OS from a gallery offering OpenLogic CentOS 6.2, SUSE Enterprise Server, openSUSE 12.1 and Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS (Figure 2). WAWSs offer the choice of Acquia Drupal 7, DasBlog, DotNetNuke Community or Professional Edition, Drupal Commerce Kickstart, Joomla! 2.5, mojoPortal, Orchard CMS, Umbraco CMS 5 or WordPress CMS and e-commerce apps, as well as ClearDB’s MySQL distribution. Source code for Windows Azure SDKs and client libraries is published under an Apache 2 license and maintained in Git repositories. You can deploy apps to Web Sites with FTP, Git, TFS and Web Deploy.
Figure 2. Step 1 in the Create Virtual Machine process offers more Linux than Windows server options. The remaining three steps configure and deploy the VM.
Cramming all these new features into a single mega-release, instead of taking Amazon Web Services’ approach of doling them out weekly, can cause information overload.
Scott Guthrie promises future Windows Azure upgrades and updates won’t be of “Spring Wave” magnitude, but will occur in smaller, more frequent doses. In the meantime, Windows Azure now stands in good stead to head off competition from recent Infrastructure as a Service entrants, such as IBM, HP and Oracle.
Below is a list providing substantial links to “Spring Wave” articles and demos by the Windows Azure team, Windows Azure and BizTalk MVPs and Microsoft execs.
Windows Azure “Spring Wave” documentation and resources
- Scott Guthrie’s blog on the New Windows Azure
- Meet Windows Azure Keynote video with Scott Guthrie
- Learn Windows Azure Foundation session video from Tech•Ed 2012 North America
- Roger Jennings’ blog on adding Windows Azure features to your subscription*
- Quentin Clark's Tech•Ed 2012 North America session Azure and Big Data
- 10 reasons to take a fresh look at Windows Azure, according to Guarav Mantri*
- Magnus Mårtensson’s explains why Windows Azure Takes The Lead… in his blog post.
- Video coverage of Satya Nadella’s keynote, “Learn Windows Azure” from Tech•Ed 2012 North America*
- Richard Seroter examines Azure’s connectivity and interoperability in light of June 2012 updates.*
- Manager and lead for Microsoft Cloud services at Sogeti, Brent Stineman, outlines updates in his post “Meet Windows Azure–Christmas in June.”*
- The SQL database team explains Business Analytics: SQL Reporting
- Wade Wegner, CTO of Aditi Technologies shares his thoughts on the Windows Azure announcements.
- The Windows Azure team offers pricing details on the product as well as an updated Windows Azure pricing calculator. They also share short video clips about “Spring Wave” features in their Digital Chalk Talks
Windows Azure SDK 1.7, Visual Studio Tools for Windows Azure and Python
- What's new in Windows Azure June Release - SDK 1.7 by Nuno Filipe Godinho*
- Roger Jennings explains how to run Visual Studio 2012 RC with Windows Azure SDK 1.7 under Windows Server 2012 on a Windows Azure VM.*
- The Windows Azure team shares Windows Azure SDK for Python from the Python Developer Center.
Management portal and Window Azure Management REST API
- Standing Up a Windows Server 2012 RC Virtual Machine in the New Windows Azure Management Portal Preview by Roger Jennings*
- Gaurav Mantri outlines updates to Windows Azure Service Management REST API.*
- Take another look at Windows Azure management, with David Pallman’s “Reintroducing Windows Azure, Part 1: The New Management Portal.*
Windows Azure networking tutorials from the Azure team
- Creating a virtual network in Windows Azure
- Creating a virtual network for cross-premises connectivity
- Adding a virtual machine to a virtual network
- How to install a replica Active Directory Domain Controller in Windows Azure virtual networks
- Installing a new Active Directory forest in Windows Azure
- Configuring Traffic Manager settings
Virtual machine configuration with Windows Azure
- Setting up a WebFarm using Windows Azure virtual machines by Maarten Balliauw*
- Roger Jennings explains how to stand up a Windows Server 2012 RC virtual machine in the new Windows Azure Management Portal Preview*
- Mark Russinovich's Tech•Ed 2012 North America session on Windows Azure virtual machines
- David Pallman discusses Windows Azure's reintroduction of virtual machines and Linux virtual machines*
- Maarten Balliauw outlines GitHub for Windows Azure websites*
- Developing single page, real-time websites on Windows Azure with Knockout and SignalR by Dennis Burton
- Roger Jennings reveals OakLeaf Antares, a clone of his OakLeaf Systems blog running on WAWS
- David Pallman reintroduces Windows Azure websites
- How does Windows Azure compare to Heroku? Michael Wood explains.*
- Bill Staples discusses how Windows Azure Sites are the Web infrastructure of the future at Tech•Ed 2012.
Windows Azure Storage
- In his blog post, software developer Gaurav Mantri looks at reduced transaction pricing and geo-replication updates to Windows Azure storage.*
- The Windows Azure storage team introduces locally redundant storage for Windows Azure Storage and highlights price reductions for storage transactions.
Windows Azure Cloud Services
- David Pallman lays out the changes in Windows Azure's cloud services.*
*Windows Azure or BizTalk MVPs
Roger Jennings is a data-oriented .NET developer and writer, a Windows Azure MVP, principal consultant of OakLeaf Systems and curator of the OakLeaf Systems blog. He's also the author of 30+ books on the Windows Azure Platform, Microsoft operating systems (Windows NT and 2000 Server), databases (SQL Azure, SQL Server and Access), .NET data access, Web services and InfoPath 2003. His books have more than 1.25 million English copies in print and have been translated into 20+ languages.