Improved Developer Experience, Interoperability, and Scalability on Windows Azure

Today we are announcing multiple updates to Windows Azure that improve ease of use, interoperability, and overall value.

Key Highlights:

  • New Developer Experience and Enhanced Interoperability—Access to Windows Azure libraries for .NET, Java, and Node.js is now available under Apache 2 open source license and hosted on GitHub, a new Windows Azure SDK for Node.js makes Windows Azure a first-class environment for Node applications, and a limited preview of an Apache Hadoop based service for Windows Azure enables Hadoop apps to be deployed in hours instead of days.
  • Easier to Get Started and Simplified Subscription Management—Revamped Dev Centers for multiple languages with helpful content and tutorials,  a new sign-up process with spending caps makes sign-up simple, fast and ensures a completely free 90 day trial. View real-time usage and billing details directly from the Windows Azure Management Portal and see expected costs with a simplified pricing calculator.
  • Improved Database Scale—Three times the maximum database size for SQL Azure (at no additional cost—details below), and SQL Azure Federation, a new sharding pattern that simplifies elastic scale-out.
  • Better Overall Value—New price cap for the largest SQL Azure databases reduces effective price per gigabyte by 67 percent, Data Transfer prices in North America and Europe have been reduced by 25 percent, and Service Bus usage is now free through March 2012.

Windows Azure is always evolving based on your feedback. We encourage you to take look at today’s updates and our pricing changes, attend tomorrow’s Learn Windows Azure event online, and let us know what you think by posting a comment on this post or talking to us on Twitter @WindowsAzure.  These are just a few of the highlights. See below for additional details

We look forward to your feedback and wish you a happy holiday season!

Bob Kelly

Here are the Details:

Ease of Use:

  • Simplified Risk Free TrialSigning up for Windows Azure just got easier with a three step process to get started quickly.  Spending caps are now available for our free 90-day Introductory Special and also for MSDN subscribers, eliminating usage above free quota limits that lead to overage charges.
  • Improved Subscription Management and Real-Time Usage VisibilityEasily change rate plans without creating a new subscription, cancel unneeded subscriptions and view up to the minute usage and billing details directly from the Windows Azure Management Portal.     
  • Streamlined BillingReview key usage and billing details at a glance with summary view invoices. In-depth reports can be run across multiple information fields if desired.  We will also move to single day invoicing each month for customers with multiple subscriptions.
  • Automatic MSDN DetectionBe alerted to free Windows Azure benefits included in your MSDN subscription.
  • Refreshed SQL Azure Management PortalThe new portal has a Metro-style user interface with new features including new workspaces with the ability to more easily monitor databases, drill-down into schemas, query plans, spatial data, indexes / keys, and query performance statistics. The new portal also supports SQL Azure Federation.
  • SQL Azure Federation and Increased Database Size—With SQL Azure Federation, databases can scale out elastically and be managed with greater ease using a new sharding pattern. This new feature makes it dramatically easier to set up an elastic database tier that can repartition based on application workloads to provide virtually unlimited scale, great economics, and simplified multi-tenancy for modern cloud applications.  We are also tripling the maximum database size in SQL Azure from 50GB to 150GB for greater flexibility to meet growing storage needs.   These are just some of the updates included in the SQL Azure Q4 2011 Service Release which is now available.  Check back later this morning for an in-depth post on the Service Release with additional details.

Interoperability:

  • Windows Azure SDK for Node.js—Expanding our support for more languages, we’ve introduced the Windows Azure SDK for Node.js. This download includes Node.js libraries for Windows Azure blob, table, and queue storage. It also includes Windows Azure PowerShell for Node.js, providing command-line tools for development and deployment of Node.js applications. Source code for Node.js client libraries is also available on GitHub. To help get started developing with Node.js, new content, tutorials, samples and application templates can be found on the Windows Azure Node.js developer center.
  • Preview of Apache Hadoop Based Distribution for Windows AzureTo help bolster Big Data capabilities on Windows Azure, we are releasing a preview of the Hadoop based distribution on Windows Azure.  This preview enables you to easily run Hadoop projects on Windows Azure and achieve some unique benefits such as ease of use, and advanced data analysis.  Highlights include:
    • Install and setup Hadoop on Windows Azure in hours instead of days thanks to a new set of installers that simplify setup and deployment.
    • New JavaScript libraries that enable millions of JavaScript developers to build MapReduce jobs for the first time using the new Hadoop based Service on Windows Azure. 
    • Hive ODBC Driver and Hive Add-in for Excel enable data analysis of unstructured data through familiar tools including Excel and PowerPivot.

This Preview will be available to a limited number of customers beginning later this week.  If you are interested in trying this preview, please complete this form with details of your Big Data scenario.  Microsoft will issue an access code to select customers based on usage scenarios. 

  • New Tools for OSS TechnologiesAs part of our continuing work with OSS communities, we are releasing a number of tools to help Windows Azure developers work with OSS technologies.  Here are some of the highlights:
    • Eclipse/Java— A major update has been made to the Windows Azure Plugin for Eclipse with Java that was released in June.  It introduces a number of usability and functionality enhancements and is available for download with the Windows Azure SDK for Java. Watch the video for a quick overview demo. Highlights include support for sticky sessions, pre-made startup scripts for popular Java servers, remote Java debugging, and much more.
    • MongoDB— Windows Azure integration, deployment package, documentation and code samples.
    • SQL Azure Federation A newly released feature that provides built-in support for elastic scale-out of the data tier. We have also released a new SQL Database Federations specification under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise, which describes additional SQL capabilities that enable data sharding for cloud scalability. 
    • Solr/Lucene: a set of code tools and configuration guidelines to get the most out of Solr running on Windows Azure. We showcase how to configure and host Solr/Lucene in Windows Azure using multi-instance replication for index-serving and single-instance for index generation with a persistent index mounted in Azure storage.
    • Memcached: guidance on how to deploy, run and tune memcached on Windows Azure from non-.NET languages.

You can read more about all this and find additional information on these tools and download links on the Port 25 blog here.  

Overall Value

To provide the best possible value to our customers, we are making the following pricing changes:

  • Price Cap for Large SQL Azure Databases—In addition to tripling the maximum database size from 50GB to 150GB, we are also introducing a price cap which lowers the effective cost per GB for customers with large databases.  Effective today, the maximum price per SQL Azure DB is $499.95.  This change allows customers with 50 GB databases and larger to continue to grow without additional costs.  Customers that use 150 GB DBs will see their effective price per GB drop by 67%.    
  • Reduced Data Transfer Prices—Effective immediately, Zone 1 (North America and Europe) data transfers are now $0.12/GB (previously $0.15) and Zone 2 (Asia Pacific) data transfers are $0.19/GB (previously $0.20)
  • Simplified Pricing and Free Promotional Period for Service Bus—Based on your feedback, we are changing the way we charge for Service Bus to increase value and simplify usage breakdown.  Beginning April 1st 2012, Service Bus usage will be billed using two new meters and we will no longer charge based on connections. 
    • Relay Hours – $0.10 per 100
    • Message Operations – $0.01 per 10,000 

To help you get familiar with the new meters and understand pricing, we are making Service Bus available free of charge through March 31, 2012. Please visit the Windows Azure pricing page for additional details.