Windows Azure update extravaganza

Two major Azure feature releases in just two weeks from Microsoft

The folks at Redmond have been cranking out updates, new features, and expanded functionality in rapid succession over the past few months. This time around it’s the often overlooked cloud platform Azure that is benefiting from a fresh set of improvements.

It’s only been two weeks since the last major feature update of Azure and today another massive set of functionality has been delivered.

Today’s feature release comprises of:

  • Storage: Import/Export Hard Disk Drives to your Storage Accounts

  • HDInsight: General Availability of our Hadoop Service in the cloud

  • Virtual Machines: New VM Gallery, ACL support for VIPs

  • Web Sites: WebSocket and Remote Debugging Support

  • Notification Hubs: Segmented customer push notification support with tag expressions

  • TFS & GIT: Continuous Delivery Support for Web Sites + Cloud Services

  • Developer Analytics: New Relic support for Web Sites + Mobile Services

  • Service Bus: Support for partitioned queues and topics

  • Billing: New Billing Alert Service that sends emails notifications when your bill hits a threshold you define

The storage import/export service is pretty interesting. Microsoft will now accept hard drive shipments from you as a customer and will import your data directly into your Azure storage account on-premise to avoid sending it over the wire. This should help ease the pain of transitioning from a local datacenter into Microsoft’s cloud considerably.

A new Virtual Machine gallery has been added (following suit from Amazon) boasting over 400 open source VM images. There should be something to fill just about every possible need you could have in an operating system.

To their cloud web hosting, they’ve enabled Web Sockets and Remote Debugging Support. Web Sockets, including frameworks SignalR and, allow for real-time two way communication between a client endpoint and the application server. Remote debugging lets you attach to the cloud host from your desk via Visual Studio and step through code, hit breakpoints, etc. just as if you were running the site locally.

Team Foundation Services and GIT integration prove continuous delivery support for Azure. You can use the new TFP cloud offering to automatically build code upon check-in. If the build is successful and all tests pass you can have it automatically deployed to Windows Azure with no interaction required.

You can read about each feature in more detail over at ScottGu’s blog.

It looks like Microsoft is hungry - making strides in their OS, Cloud, Web, and Mobile divisions at a pace we haven’t seen before. It’s refreshing to see a company as large and as old as Microsoft adopt an aggressive release cycle like the younger competitors. The old dog is learning some new tricks.

Read more of Matthew Mombrea's ByteStream blog and follow Matt on Twitter (@mombrea) and Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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