Since I mentioned this new release in my other post I figured I’d expand a little bit more on some of the features that it provides. The Azure team recently unveiled the biggest update to Windows Azure since its release, including new Windows Azure services: Web Sites, Virtual Machines, and Media Services. They have continued to focus on open source development tools and technologies, even enabling Linux to run on the Windows Azure Platform. If you've downloaded the Visual Studio 2012 RC then you should most certainly download the now compatible Windows Azure SDK for .NET.

The following is a quick summary of the aforementioned new features:

Web Sites [ Link ]

Get started for free using shared instances and scale as you go using reserved instances for greater isolation and performance. Ten shared-instance websites are free for one year, and any reserved instances that you use are significantly discounted during preview.  Please click here for full details.

Virtual Machines & Virtual Network  [ Link ]

Virtual Machines gives you application mobility so you can move your existing applications back and forth between on-premises and the cloud. Then, create your own virtual private network (VPN) in Windows Azure and securely connect your VMs to on-premises infrastructure. Virtual Network is available at no charge during preview, while Virtual Machines is significantly discounted off of our current compute rates during preview.  Please click here for full details.

Media Services  [ Link ]

Media Services offers the flexibility, scalability, and reliability of a cloud service to handle high-quality media experiences for a global audience. Media Services is free during preview, but is limited to 1 terabyte of data processing per month. Please click here for full details.

Locally Redundant Storage

By default, storage accounts are set up to be geographically redundant. Customers that do not require this additional level of durability now can turn off Geo Redundancy and obtain significant savings (for example, a savings of over 25% based on our standard Pay-As-You-Go rates). Locally Redundant Storage is still highly durable, with multiple replicas stored within the same sub-region.

SQL Reporting

SQL Reporting is a new business intelligence service that allows you to publish reports to the cloud or embed reports directly within on-premises applications. The service will be offered at no charge for billing periods beginning prior to August 1, 2012. Thereafter, there will be a charge per hour per reporting instance. Each reporting-instance hour enables a customer to generate up to 200 reports. Please click here to view the standard Pay-As-You-Go rates for SQL Reporting.

Note: For full details on pricing of all these services, visit the new Pricing Overview webpage.

In addition to these new features, there’s a preview of an updated and streamlined HTML5-based Management Portal, which you can access from multiple platforms, browsers, and devices.

To get all of the news on the latest release of Windows Azure, visit the Windows Azure blog—and please provide your feedback. To see Windows Azure in action, watch Scott Guthrie’s keynote address from the Meet Windows Azure Event.