Today, we are ushering in the new era of Hybrid Cloud, bringing together the best of on-premises and cloud computing.  Virtual Machines, Virtual Network, and Web Sites are now available as new preview services for Windows Azure.  SQL Reporting is now Generally Available to customers, a locally redundant storage option has been added to provide additional customer choice, and several enhancements to existing Windows Azure services are now live.  These updates help customers build and bring their applications to the cloud in their own unique way.

Additionally, a number of pricing and metering updates have been made to increase overall value. These changes include graduated pricing for Network, CDN and Storage; preview pricing for Windows Server and Non-Windows VMs; and a 90% reduction in Storage and CDN transaction prices.

Full details are below, and please check back often for technical deep dive posts and other helpful information on these enhancements.

Here are the details:

Enhancements to Existing Services:

  • SQL Reporting—Now Generally Available with a fully backed SLA, SQL Reporting enables you to publish reports to the cloud or embed reports directly within on-premises applications that can be accessed via browser, mobile device or PC. Additional details available here.
  • Caching—“Caching Preview” offers a new tenancy model, new features and performance improvements.  The Preview allows Caching to be deployed to web roles and to be co-located with other application components.  Additionally, a dedicated cache tier can be created for one or more applications from multiple worker roles providing almost unlimited cache sizes and scale.  The Preview adds many new features such as notifications, tags, regions and high availability to ensure that your cached data is resilient.   Additional details available here
  • Storage—As an additional choice to our existing Geo-Redundant Storage option, Locally Redundant Storage is now available for customers who don’t require geo-replication and are looking for reduced storage costs.  Other storage updates include Blob Leases and Cross Storage Account Copy for blob storage, and Shared Access Signature (SAS) for Tables and Queues (with continued availability for blob storage). Additional details are available here.
  • Compliance— The SSAE 16 (SOC 1 Type 2) audit report is now available for Windows Azure core services.  For more information, please visit the Windows Azure Trust Center

New Services:

  • Windows Azure Virtual Machines— Virtual Machines give you application mobility, allowing you to move your virtual hard disks (VHDs) back and forth between on-premises and the cloud.   Migrate existing workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SharePoint to the cloud, bring your own customized Windows Server or Linux images, or select from a gallery. Compatible operating systems and images available in the online gallery include;
    • Windows Server
      • Windows Server 2008 R2
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 with SQL Server 2012 Eval
      • Windows Server 2012 RC
    • Linux:
      • OpenSUSE 12.1
      • CentOS 6.2
      • Ubuntu 12.04
      • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 

Virtual Machines can be accessed in the new Windows Azure Management Preview Portal or through Powershell, using the new Windows Azure SDK (June 2012). Command line tools are also available for development on a Mac or Linux.

To start using Virtual Machines, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account.  Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

  • Windows Azure Virtual Network— This new service provides you a simple way to create a private environment (called a virtual network or VNET for short) in Windows Azure and optionally connect it to your on-premises network using a VPN gateway. Within the virtual network you create, you have control over the network topology - for example, you can configure IP address ranges for the Virtual Machines or even specify your own DNS. For creating a secure connection with your corporate VPN gateway, the industry-standard IPSEC protocol is used. With the Windows Azure Virtual Network service, you can
    • Extend your on-premises datacenter by building “virtual” extensions in the public cloud
    • Provide a networking on-ramp for migrating existing (including legacy) apps and services to Windows Azure
    • Run “hybrid” apps that span the cloud and on-premises networks 

To start using Virtual Networks, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ page under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

  • Windows Azure Web Sites—Build web sites and applications with this highly elastic solution that allows you to easily deploy with a few clicks.
    • Build modern applications using.NET, Node.js, or PHP, and connect with SQL Database (formerly known as SQL Azure) or MySQL (offered as a service on Windows Azure by ClearDB).
    • Easily deploy using built-in integration with Git and Team Foundation Service, along with FTP. Integration with Microsoft WebMatrix also allows you to easily pull down your web sites locally to make changes and then easily deploy back to Windows Azure.
    • Deploy popular open source web apps like WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, and Drupal to the cloud.

To start using Web Sites, request access on the ‘Preview Features’ page under the ‘account’ tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

Improved Tooling and Language Support:

  • Windows Azure Management Portal (Preview)-- The Preview Portal features rich scenario-based user interfaces, real-time monitoring charts, diagnostics data, notifications and alerts to manage the health of your application, enabling easy deployment, configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting of your applications. The Preview Portal supports the following services: Cloud Services, Virtual Machines (Preview), Web Sites (Preview), Virtual Network (Preview), SQL Database and Storage.
  • New tools, language support, and SDK—Windows Azure SDK June 2012 includes new developer capabilities for writing code against the latest service improvements with updated support for Java, PHP, and .NET, and the addition of Python as a supported language on Windows Azure.  Additionally, the SDK now provides 100% command line support for both Windows and Mac.
    • Windows Azure SDK for .NET
      • Added support for IISExpress in the Emulator
      • Added support for LocalDB in the Emulator
      • Added Dedicated Caching (Preview) functionality
        • Added Visual Studio support for Dedicated Caching (Preview) roles
      • Updated client libraries for Storage, Service Bus & Shared Caching
      • Added Visual Studio support for Service Bus
    • Windows Azure SDK for Java
      • Added service wrapper client libraries for Tables (Storage)
    • Windows Azure SDK for Node.js
      • Added Service Runtime client libraries
    • Windows Azure SDK for PHP
      • Added service wrapper client libraries for the following services
        • Storage (Tables, Queues & Blobs)
        • Service Bus
        • Service Runtime
      • Added packaging and tooling support for Windows Azure PowerShell cmdlets
    • Windows Azure SDK for Python
      • PowerShell cmdlets and Client Libraries (win, linux, mac).
      • Support for Django, the most popular Python web framework
      • Support for Windows Azure and Django in PTVS http://pytools.codeplex.com 
      • Support for IPython (from win, linux, mac clients) to Virtual Machines (Linux or Windows)  

Pricing Updates:

  • Preview Pricing for VMs.  For the preview period, Windows Server and Linux VMs cost per hour is .013 for xSmall, .08 for Small, .16 for Medium, .32 for Large and .64 for XLarge. 
  • Preview Pricing for SQL Server VMs.  For the preview period, SQL Server 2012 Eval Edition is included at no additional charge.  At GA, Images with SQL Server 2012 Web and Standard Editions will be available for an additional fee.
  • Graduated Pricing for Storage, CDN, and Network Egress.  Customers using these services will automatically see their costs go down as their usage volume increases There is no need to do anything special, if you are a Pay As You Go customer, you will receive this benefit automatically. 
  • Locally Redundant Storage.  As mentioned above, we are adding a new option – Locally Redundant Storage.  Locally Redundant Storage offers up to a 33% discount over our Geo-Redundant Storage option with the same graduated pricing tiers.   
  • Price reduction for Storage and CDN transactions.  Storage and CDN transactions have been reduced by 90% (from .01 for 10,000 transactions to .01 for 100,000 transactions).

For additional details on pricing, please visit our pricing page here.

Expanded Availability

  • Availability in New Countries— Availability of Windows Azure is being expanded to customers in 48 new countries, including Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, and Ukraine.  Roll-out will be complete later this month, making Windows Azure one of the most widely available cloud platforms in the industry with offerings in 89 countries and in 19 local currencies.   

For a full list of countries, please click here.

Together, these updates offer customers greater flexibility for spanning on-premises and cloud servers, deliver powerful enhancements for cloud applications, and continue our commitment to make Windows Azure an open platform.  We invite you to sign-up for these new previews and provide your feedback!

Bob Kelly, Corporate Vice President, Windows Azure Marketing