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Windows Azure AD GA Release, New Backup Service and More Announced

At the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Brad Anderson, talk about the how Microsoft’s cloud solutions empower customers to embrace the new role of IT in the enterprise.

“This is a big week for Microsoft, with opportunity to show what we’ve learned from operating 200+ cloud services for 1+ billion people – and how that’s helped us build products that enable our customers to deliver the best possible solutions,” Anderson added.

Microsoft also released some great enhancements to Windows Azure with immediate availability including:

Windows Azure Acitve Directory (AD) GA release: MMS 2013

First up, Windows Azure Active Directory (Ad) has reached the general availability and is now ready for production use!

“All Windows Azure customers can now easily create and use a Windows Azure Active Directory to manage identities and security for their apps and organizations. Best of all, this support is available for free (there is no charge to create a directory, populate it with users, or write apps against it),” informs Microsoft.

Microsoft adds that AD has over the last 90 days, processed over 65 billion authentication requests while maintaining 99.97% or better monthly availability.

Backup Service: New Service that enables secure offsite backups of Windows Servers in the cloud

“The new Windows Azure Backup service, today adds support to enable offsite backup protection for Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 and Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, and System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1 to Windows Azure,” the Azure team said.

Web Sites: Monitoring and Diagnostic Enhancements

This update to Azure also adds a bunch of new monitoring and diagnostic capabilities for Windows Azure Web Sites–including:

  • the ability to easily turn on/off tracing and store trace + log information in log files that can be easily retrieved via FTP or streamed to developer machines (enabling developers to see it in real-time – which can be super useful when you are trying to debug an issue and the app is deployed remotely).
  • streaming support allows you to monitor the “tail” of your log files – so that you only retrieve content appended to them – which makes it especially useful when you clicking want to check something out without having to download the full set of logs.
  • new tracing support integrates very nicely with .NET’s System.Diagnostics library as well as ASP.NET’s built-in tracing functionality. It also works with other languages and frameworks.
  • real-time streaming tools are cross platform and work with Windows, Mac and Linux dev machines.

HDInsight update adds the ability to see diagnostic metrics for your HDInsight services in the Windows Azure Management Portal (they are surfaced in the dashboard view now – just like every other service).

Operation audit logs now shows the user account name who performed each operation on the account.

Media Services now lets choose from a wider variety of presets when encoding video content with the portal.

Virtual Machines. Microsoft has increased default OS disk size for new VMs that are created, and now allow you to specify the default user name for the VM.

Ability to add a Windows Azure Active Directory to your Azure subscription for customers who use Microsoft accounts for logging into Azure.

Granting and revoking application directory access permissions have been greatly simplified.

Now, exisitng Azure customers who log in using a Microsoft account can now add a Windows Azure AD tenant and use it to manage access to Azure for their employees with either Microsoft accounts or Azure AD accounts.

Finally, samples and developer documentation updates to the application registration process, so if you are a developer, you’ll definitely want to read up on that.

Other server and cloud announcements include:

System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure is now available in public preview form. This pack allows users to monitor availability and performance of the Azure services using their existing System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) environment.

System Center Advisor Connector for Operations Manager is available as a free, public preview for System Center 2012 SP1 users.

“This connector enables Advisor to be an attached service to your Operations Manager deployment. With the Advisor Connector, you can use your existing SCOM agents and management servers to receive Advisor rules which collect and forward configuration data to Advisor. Advisor then process the data & generate appropriate alerts which can be viewed in your Operations Manager console,” Microsoft stated.

Download Advisor Connector Preview.

Quiz for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 now available lets you tests your knowledge of many of the new features and functionality in Configuration Manager SP1.

The quizzes are compatible with any computer running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 and will download the correct version of Silverlight if it is not installed. To run the quizzes, visit here.

Microsoft also is continuing to beat the “software-defined networking” (SDN) drum, announcing its participation in OpenDaylight, an open-source project focused on SDN.

“By participating in the multi-platform endeavor, Microsoft is demonstrating our commitment to an open, extensible and standards-based approach to SDN and network virtualization,” according to Microsoft’s official statement.

In addition, Microsoft and NBC Sports Group teams up to deliver compelling sports programming across digital platforms using Windows Azure.

“Microsoft is constantly looking for innovative ways to utilize the power of the cloud, and we see Windows Azure Media Services as a high-demand offering,” said Scott Guthrie.

In addition to Media Services, Azure core services include Mobile Services, Cloud Services, Virtual Machines, Websites and Big Data.

“New alliance aims to deliver live and on-demand programming of more than 5,000 hours of sporting events plus Sochi 2014 Olympic Games for NBC Sports’ digital platforms,” Microsoft stated.

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