Azure N-Series Virtual Machines Preview, Azure AD Authentication GA Available Now

Azure N-Series VM preview, Azure AD authentication in SQL Database and SQL Data Warehouse GA available. Microsoft Authenticator app coming.

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Microsoft partnered with NVIDIA launched the preview of Azure N-Series Virtual Machines, the fastest GPUs in the public cloud.

N-Series instances are enabled with NVIDIA's cutting edge GPUs and allow you to run GPU-accelerated workloads and visualize them. These powerful sizes come with the agility you have come to expect from Azure, paying per-minute of usage.

The new N-Series VMs are split into two categories: "NC-Series (compute-focused GPUs), let you run compute intensive HPC workloads using CUDA or OpenCL. This SKU is powered by Tesla K80 GPUs and offers the fastest computational GPU available in the public cloud."

Furthermore, "these new SKUs expose the GPUs through discreet device assignment (DDA) which results in close to bare-metal performance." "You can now crunch through data much faster with CUDA across many scenarios including energy exploration applications, crash simulations, ray traced rendering, deep learning and more," the company explained.

And, the "NV-Series is focused more on visualization," noted Microsoft. Adding, it said, with the Azure NV-Series, "you'll be able to use Tesla M60 GPUs and NVIDIA GRID in Azure for desktop accelerated applications and virtual desktops."

"Azure N-Series now makes GPU computing accessible for modern day Da Vincis, Curies and Einsteins to solve the world's hardest problems. With over 400 industry applications accelerated by NVIDIA GPUs, Microsoft and NVIDIA are serving the world's most demanding users and powering amazing experiences in simulation, artificial intelligence, professional visualization." Ian Buck, VP of accelerated computing, NVIDIA wrote.

Additionally, the technology will enable you to visualize your simulations in real time on Azure including having the ability to modify models and simulate them real time in Azure. This really closes the loop on "true HPC in the cloud" and allows customers to run their entire infrastructure and pipeline in Azure.

Interested, you can register in the preview here.

In other Azure releated news, Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) authentication is generally available in Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

Azure AD can be used to authenticate against a growing number of Azure and other Microsoft services and helps customers prevent the proliferation of users and passwords.

"Azure AD provides an alternative to SQL Authentication enabling centralized identity and group management. It enables a single sign-on experience using SQL Database and SQL Data Warehouse for federated domains," the Redmond company explains.

Azure portal AD administrator DBA representing an Azure AD group

Other advantages include:

  • Greatly simplified permission management allowing customers to control database permissions via Azure AD groups without having to access any of the underlying databases.

    Support for:

  • Azure AD managed and federated domains with user name/password. Password rotation is centralized and triggered automatically from Azure AD.
  • Integrated Windows Authentication for Azure AD federated domains and clients on domain-joined machines. This enables single sign-on across participating services. Integrated Windows authentication is also supported for remote connections using VPNs.
  • JSON Web Token (JWT) which allows you to perform Azure AD authentication for middle-tier applications against SQL Database (e.g., service accounts).

To use Azure AD Authentication, customers must configure an Azure AD administrator via PowerShell, REST API, or the Azure portal. The admin then provision SQL contained users that are mapped to Azure AD identities.

In addition, the Redmond company also released the Xamarin component for Intune App SDK and TeamViewer integration for remote assistance.

The Intune App SDK Xamarin component allows you to easily enable Intune mobile app management features in your mobile iOS and Android apps built with Xamarin.

The Xamarin component supports Xamarin Cycle 7 and above. "With new support for Xamarin, we're making it easier for developers to use our Intune App SDK to prevent data loss in their mobile iOS and Android apps," the company said.

Further, the company explained, "Xamarin component was designed specifically for use when building cross-platform mobile apps on the Xamarin platform, so developers can easily bake in mobile application management (MAM) controls as part of their standard app development process. If you are a developer building a cross-platform app, you can now quickly apply Intune MAM controls to your project with very little modification to your mobile app."

To get started, you can download the Intune App SDK and its plugins Github and the Xamarin component store.

Now some more interesting stuff, Microsoft has accouned of releasing releasing its new Microsoft Authenticator apps in all mobile app stores starting on August 15.

This new app combines the best parts of previous authenticator apps into a new app which works with both Microsoft accounts and Azure AD accounts. It'll be delivered as an update to Azure Authenticator. "Existing accounts in your Azure Authenticator app will be automatically upgraded," explained the company.

And, the users of Microsoft account Android app will get a message prompting them to download the new app.

Some of benefits of the new app updates:

  • Best in breed MFA experience through one-click push notifications. You only need to click the "approve" button in the notification to complete your login. (And in most cases, you won't even need to open the app to complete the approval.)
  • Support for wearables—you can use an Apple Watch or Samsung Gear device to approve MFA challenges.
  • Finger prints based approvals on both iPhone and Android, instead of passcodes.
  • Certificate based authentication instead of passwords.

Microsoft Authenticator