Microsoft Unveils Host of New Features for Azure and new Pricing Tiers for Microsoft Azure Websites

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Lots of Microsoft Azure news and notes to relay this time around. First off, Microsoft has released in “limited preview” a new cloud service called Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service, which will “allow users to capture and manage machine-generated data from sensors and devices,” according to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. With this new service, organizations can tap their Microsoft data-analysis tools, including HD Insight, Hadoop, and Power BI “to capture and analyze the data from that service.” ZDNet’s Foley also reports that Microsoft is unveiling a product called the Analytics Platform System (APS), which “combines SQL Server and Hadoop into a single offering that Microsoft is touting as providing ‘big data in a box.’”

On the heels of Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference, Steven Martin recently blogged that Microsoft will cut prices for compute by up to 35% for General Purpose Instances and Memory-Intensive Instances. Martin also announced price cuts for “Block Blob storage pricing by up to 65% for LRS and up to 44% for GRS.” All of these pricing changes should be in effect by May 1.

In the same vein, Microsoft’s Byron Tardif blogged that the company is launching a new Basic tier for Microsoft Azure Websites and is “making some changes” to its Standard tier. The new Basic tier includes “production sites, supporting smaller sites, as well as development and testing scenarios,” says Tardif. He notes the Standard tier will come with 50 GB of storage, making it more “cost-efficient.”

Let’s get back to the Microsoft Build 2014 event that took place last month in San Francisco. Out of this event, Steven Martin details (via his blog) the array of key product news and announcements. First off, Martin introduces the new Microsoft Azure Portal, a new one-stop management portal where users can “create, manage, and analyze your entire application as a single resource group rather than through standalone resources.” He also discusses a new feature called “Offline sync” for Azure Mobile Services. In this context, developers can “design applications for scenarios where users need to work with data while disconnected from the network, and sync when connectivity becomes available again.” Martin notes this feature was added in response to feedback from enterprise Azure customers. Martin also announced that Autoscale is now “generally available for Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, Web Sites, and Mobile Services.”

Coming out of the 2014 NAB conference last month in Vegas, Microsoft’s Vibhor Kapoor announced new features to Microsoft Azure Media Services (for media processing and delivery). Kapoor blogs that Azure Media Services has new Live Streaming capability, giving users the “ tools and services needed to handle everything from ingest to processing, and distribution of on-demand video content or streaming live events at Olympic scale, to nearly any device.” Kapoor also introduces new secure delivery service functionality, allowing users “to protect their content during upload, while at rest in storage, and during playback.” Kapoor also notes that Azure Media Services now powers the Office 365 Video experience for “cloud-based video upload, storage and optimized playback for businesses.”

In related news, InfoQ’s Richard Seroter reports that Microsoft has worked to bolster its Azure Traffic Manager (ATM) for Azure websites. This ATM service, according to Seroter, “routes DNS requests to different Azure endpoints based on geography, endpoint availability, or a simple Round Robin algorithm.” The ATM now can act like more of a “global load balancer,” enabling developers to more efficiently run their web applications on the most efficient global data centers at any point in time.

Lastly, Microsoft’s Yousef Khalidi blogged recently that Azure’s ExpressRoute ecosystem (for private cloud deployments) is “expanding with exciting new alliances with BT and Verizon.” Khalidi reports that Microsoft will partner with the UK’s BT to allow “customers using BT’s IP Connect Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to seamlessly extend their existing corporate networks into Microsoft Azure.” He also says Microsoft will begin a “strategic alliance” with Verizon Enterprise Solutions to permit companies to “use Verizon’s Private IP service to connect to multiple cloud services including the Verizon cloud and Microsoft Azure.”

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