August 2013

Announcements

Notification Hubs are now generally available

With general availability of Windows Azure Notification Hubs, customers now enjoy a high-availability service level agreement (SLA).

Notification Hubs provide a highly scalable, cross-platform push notification infrastructure that enables you to either broadcast push notifications to millions of users at once or tailor notifications to individual users. We fully support push notifications for native Windows Store (WNS), Windows Phone (MPNS), Android (GCM), and iOS (APNS) applications. Notification Hubs can be used with any connected application—whether it's built on Windows Azure Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, Websites, or Mobile Services. That makes it easy to update any of your mobile apps right away and start engaging users on their terms.

As part of this general availability announcement, there are great new walkthroughs from Chris Risner for using Notification Hubs with iOS and from Elio Damaggio for using Notification Hubs with Windows Store apps. Visit the Notification Hubs Documentation page for additional tutorials.

Try the Premium preview for SQL Database, now available

The Premium offering for Windows Azure SQL Database will help deliver more predictable performance for cloud applications by dedicating a fixed amount of reserved capacity for a database (including its built-in secondary replicas). This new Premium tier will help you raise the bar on the types of business applications that you bring to the cloud.

SQL Database customers with account administrator rights can request access to this preview today!

Learn more:

Seize the opportunity for a deeper engagement with the product engineering team for application access enhancements for Windows Azure Active Directory.

On July 7, we announced the public preview for the new application access enhancements for Windows Azure Active Directory. Now we are actively seeking customers to engage with our product engineering team. The benefits include early access to new capabilities while they are in development, direct feedback to engineering to help shape application access enhancements and regular engagement with our product engineers. If you want to work closely with our engineering team during the preview and while you are testing the enhancements, please complete this form and we will contact you.

You can also send us questions and feedback regarding the application access enhancements preview. We would highly value your input on these new capabilities, so please let us know how useful they are to your company and how we could improve them.

For more information, benefits, and scenarios involving Windows Azure Active Directory, please visit the Identity and Access Management webpage.

Sign up for the preview today.

Meet the winner of the Code Project Windows Azure Developer Challenge

The winner of the Code Project Windows Azure Developer Challenge is Phil Lee, a software developer based in Wellington, New Zealand. Lee enjoys experimenting with new Microsoft .NET technologies as they are released; his current interests are Windows Azure, Model View Controller (MVC) 4, SignalR, writing quality JavaScript, and responsive design.

Lee's article YouConf - Your Live Online Conferencing Tool was built on Scott Hanselman's blog post Penny Pinching in the Cloud: How to Run a Two-Day Virtual Conference for $10. Lee used the same principle as dotnetConf, building on it so that anyone can create their own conference with speakers, presentations, chat, search, recording, and streaming to a live audience.

Get the newly released version 2.1 of Windows Azure SDK for .NET

Version 2.1 is a major update of the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK), and it includes some great new features and enhancements. The new capabilities include:

  • Visual Studio 2013 Preview support. Windows Azure SDK for .NET now supports using Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Preview.
  • Visual Studio 2013 virtual machine image. Windows Azure now has a built-in virtual machine image that you can use to host and develop with Visual Studio 2013 in the cloud.
  • Virtual Machines start/stop within Visual Studio. Start and stop virtual machines—and suspend billing when a virtual machine is not is use—from within Visual Studio Server Explorer.

These are just a few of the SDK enhancements now available to start using immediately. You can download the SDK from the Windows Azure .NET Developer Center.

Learning

Scaling up and scaling out in Windows Azure Websites

One of the most important considerations when deploying your web site is choosing the right pricing tier. Once you exit the development and test cycle, your site will be your corporate web presence or an important new digital marketing campaign or a line-of-business app. So you want to make sure that your site is as available and responsive while staying comfortably within budget. For information on critical factors to consider and how to minimize costs, see Byron Tardif's blog post from the Windows Azure Team.

Windows Azure Websites: How application strings and connection strings work

Windows Azure Websites has a handy capability whereby developers can store key-value string pairs in Windows Azure as part of the configuration information associated with a website. At run time, Websites automatically retrieves these values and makes them available to code running in your site. Developers can store plain vanilla key-value pairs as well as key-value pairs that will be used as connection strings. Read the full blog post.

Tutorial: Installing SharePoint 2013 on Windows Azure Virtual Machines

With this new tutorial, you will learn how to configure and deploy a SharePoint farm on a set of virtual machines in Windows Azure Virtual Machines:

Try out the tutorial: Installing SharePoint 2013 on Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.

Tuesdays with Corey: SharePoint on Windows Azure

Corey discusses SharePoint, Windows Azure, and up to 98 percent cost savings. Oh—and we added some low-budget special effects.

Watch the video

Partner

August Partner Showcase: IMGROUP

As an early adopter of Windows Azure, IMGROUP has been able to develop and deliver a new class of services spanning identity management and authentication for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, "BI in the sky" solutions, video-on-demand services, and a host of other agile development capabilities. Find out more information on IMGROUP and Windows Azure.

August Partner Showcase: Black Marble

Black Marble consultants can help you determine if Windows Azure is right for your business and work with you to identify your requirements for a successful move to the cloud. Black Marble has been recognized by Microsoft as a member of the Windows Azure Circle, a select group of partners with expertise in Microsoft cloud services. Membership signifies the company is certified to consult, build, implement, and deploy solutions on Windows Azure. Find out how Black Marble can help you with your cloud projects.

Success Stories

UK insurance firm uses mobile app and cloud platform to track driving behavior

Aviva, a leading provider of financial services worldwide, wanted to help customers save money by basing auto insurance quotes on the behavior of individual drivers instead of on statistics. To better understand potential customers, Aviva needed to collect telematics data from moving vehicles, but deploying on-premises infrastructure for such a task was too costly and complex. Instead Aviva implemented a hybrid-cloud solution based on Windows Azure.

Read the full story
Watch the video

Bicycle firm moves retail system to cloud, expects to save $15,000 a month in IT costs

Trek wanted to move its Ascend retail management system to the cloud to reduce support costs and ease maintenance. Trek chose Windows Azure because it offered full compatibility with Microsoft development tools and provided separate infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments. By reducing its reliance on external IT support and data center resources, the company expects to reduce its IT hosting costs by $15,000 a month and has cut server upgrade time from 2 to 6 weeks to just two hours.

Read the full story
Watch the video