Microsoft Azure Gets Better with Virtual Machines, Machine Learning, Zone Redundant Storage and Improvements

Microsoft recently released several enhancements to Microsoft Azure related to virtual machines, machine learning, event hub, mobile services, notification hubs, support for Geo-Restore, Geo-Replication, Auditing and redis cache.

The latest update has added Virtual Machines support to Azure Preview Portal. It enables developers to create standalone VMs using the portal or group multiple VMs (and PaaS services) together into a Resource Group and manage them as a single logical entity. The preview portal was released at the //Build conference earlier this year.

Microsoft has added Azure Gallery to the portal that provides an easy way to deploy a wide variety of VM images (Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Ubuntu, Oracle, Baracuda images) and online services. The Azure product team has enabled a new SharePoint Server Farm gallery item in July, that enables you to easily configure and deploy a highly available SharePoint Server Farm consisting of multiple VM images quickly.

A public preview of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning (Azure ML) service is now available that enables your application and system to significantly improve your organization’s understanding across vast amounts of data. It is basically a fully managed cloud service without any need to install the required software and hardware.

“Data scientists can use it to avoid programming a large number of common tasks, allowing them to focus on experiment design and iteration”, said Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group, Microsoft.

With the help of Azure ML, you will be able to create production deployments at scale in the cloud and provides an ability for startups and large enterprises to leverage the potential of machine learning.

Microsoft also released a new Azure service named Event Hub. It is a highly scalable pub-sub ingestor capable of elastic scale to handle millions of events per second from millions of connected devices. This enables you to process and analyze the massive amounts of data produced by your connected devices and applications.

A new instance of Event Hub can be created by logging into the Azure Management Portal and selecting New | App Services |Service Bus | Event Hub.

The latest update also includes a mobile services package which enable developers to build mobile facing backend APIs using .NET. You will be able to perform following activities

  • Quickly add a fully featured backend to your iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, HTML or cross-platform Xamarin, Sencha, or PhoneGap app.
  • Publish any existing ASP.NET Web API to Azure.
  • Take advantage of built-in mobile capabilities like push notifications, real-time notifications with SignalR, enterprisesign-on with Azure Active Directory, social auth, offline data sync for occasionally connected scenarios, OData controllers and third party ASP based frameworks such as Breeze.
  • Ability to login via Azure Active Directory and securely access enterprise assets such as SharePoint and Office 365.
  • Seamless connectivity to on-premises assets.
  • Ability to build, test and debug Mobile Services .NET backend using Visual Studio running locally on your machine or remotely in Azure.

Microsoft Azure team recently released an update to Mobile Services .NET backend support which enables you to use ASP.NET SignalR for real-time, bi-directional communications with your mobile applications.

With the help of the above integration, you will be able to send messages to your connected SignalR applications from any Web API controller or scheduled job. It also includes unified authentication and automatic scale-out mechanism.

Some of the other features introduced in the latest update of Microsoft Azure are as follows

  • Mobile Services Offline Sync Preview for native iOS apps, as well as Xamarin.iOS, and Xamarin.Android.
  • Field Engineer App – An app for mobile workers needing to visit customer sites to fix an issue.
  • Sales Assistant App – An app for store managers and sales assistants that facilitates typical operations on the storefloor, as well as reporting.

Azure Notification Hubs

  • Price reduction
  • ┬áScheduled Push
  • ┬áBulk Registration management

SQL Databases

  • Geo-restore
  • Geo-replication
  • Auditing

Microsoft has updated Redis Cache to support larger cache sizes – 250 MB, 1 GB, 2.5 GB, 6 GB, 13 GB and 26 GB. It also offers support for six new azure regions and ability to configure Redis MaxMemory policy.

The latest Azure update has added Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) that replicates your data across 2 to 3 facilities either within a single Azure region or across two Azure regions. Your site will never experience any downtime because of this unique feature.

Guthurie, in his blog has examined the details of all the above mentioned features with the help of screenshots.

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