Azure Newsletter: April 2016

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Be Informed

Featured customer-submitted story: BT and Formwize

BT customer Formwize (a web provider of SaaS forms that eliminate paper ones) wanted to spread their business risk and customer traffic over multiple sites. In just one day, BT cross-connected Formwize’s on-premises primary Microsoft SQL database with Azure, using its secured site-to-site VPN, and set up their AlwaysOn databases for database replication between their premises and Azure. Formwize can now load-share and manually switch traffic between their on-premises kit and cloud in the event of disaster. Read the case study to find out how they went hybrid in a day.

Do you have a story that you want to share with your fellow Azure Newsletter readers? Submit your story and you could see it here!

Watch Build 2016 sessions on demand

Did you miss out on Build 2016 in San Francisco, California, on 30 March to 1 April 2016? Not to worry – you can still catch up on all sessions by watching them on demand on Channel 9. Learn about the latest tools and technologies and how they can help today’s developers be more creative and productive. Make sure that you take a look at the keynote from Day 2 that featured Scott Guthrie, Qi Lu, Steve Guggenheimer and John Shewchuk.

Upcoming events

DrupalCon 2016
9 May 2016
New Orleans, Louisiana

SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Annual Conference
17 May 2016
Orlando, Florida

PyCon 2016
28 May 2016
Portland, Oregon

2016 Hadoop Summit
28 June 2016
San Jose, California

ChefConf 2016
11 July 2016
Austin, Texas

Microsoft Developer Camps

Azure DocumentDB announces protocol support for MongoDB and improvements for high-scale workloads

Azure DocumentDB introduces protocol support for MongoDB with pricing, storage and throughput options for customers who develop high-performance and high-scale applications. DocumentDB is the fully managed NoSQL database service on Azure that provides low-latency, automatically indexed data. Visit the Azure portal to create a DocumentDB account.

Azure Storage Service Encryption in public preview

Azure Storage Service Encryption is now available for Azure Blob Storage (Block and Page Blobs) upon request for any new storage account created through Azure Resource Manager. Accounts with this feature enabled encrypt data with Microsoft-managed keys using the industry-leading 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) algorithm. This is a fully managed encryption process: Microsoft performs key management, rotation and compliance with key standards. Customers with security and compliance requirements can take advantage of this feature now.

Take a free test drive on Azure Marketplace

Trend Micro’s Deep Security running on Azure, but don’t want to subscribe to Azure or use your credit card, then you can take a test drive first without the commitment. Launch a pre-configured image running on Azure with a couple of clicks, then explore, and finally decide whether it’s right for you. Several partners, including Trend Micro, are participating. Take a look at them!

Azure App Service SSL Certificates now available for purchase

Azure App Service customers can now purchase SSL Certificates to use with a variety of apps. You can purchase Standard SSL Certificates or Wildcard SSL Certificates. Both types of SSL certificates are valid for one year and can be set for auto-renewal.

Azure Virtual Machines Scale Sets generally available

Scale Sets help make it easy to build highly scalable applications by deploying identical virtual machines (VMs) as a set. Built on the Azure Resource Manager model, Scale Sets works with Windows and Linux images, custom images and extensions. There is no additional cost to use Scale Sets.

New Dv2 instances for Azure Virtual Machines

We’re announcing a new instance size, D15v2, that extends the Dv2-Series for Azure Virtual Machines. D15v2 is the largest instance size in the Dv2-Series, with 20 cores and 114 GB of memory. Dv2-Series instances are currently available in Australia East, Australia Southeast, West US, East US, East US 2, South Central US, North Central US, Central US, North Europe, West Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Japan East.

Azure Service Fabric generally available; Azure Service Fabric for Windows Server in public preview

Now generally available, Azure Service Fabric is an application platform for building microservice-based applications with built-in support for life cycle management, stateful and stateless performance at scale, hybrid deployments, all-the-time availability and container management. Service Fabric uses the same technology powering many Microsoft applications and services, including Azure SQL Database, Azure DocumentDB, Microsoft Intune, Cortana and Skype for Business. Service Fabric for Windows Server is now in public preview, so customers can install the platform on Windows Server machines whether in customer data centres or in the cloud.

Azure Data Catalog generally available

Azure Data Catalog is an enterprise-wide metadata catalogue that stores, describes, indexes and shows you how to access any registered data asset. It makes data source discovery easy and facilitates collaboration between those who seek information and those who create it. In contrast to traditional metadata management solutions that focus on IT, Data Catalog bridges the gap between IT and business users. It allows users with knowledge of the data to enrich the system by annotating each data asset as it is discovered. And IT can still maintain control and oversight as the system evolves by locking down visibility to selected assets as the need occurs.

Azure Container Service generally available

Azure Container Service helps customers manage container-based applications in production, at scale. Azure Container Service is fully integrated into the Azure portal, the Azure Resource Manager and our compute, storage and networking resources. This supports Docker images, using familiar tools and either open-source DCOS or Docker Swarm as the underlying orchestration technology. The only cost for Azure Container Service is what you pay to use the underlying resources.

Azure HDInsight now supports R for machine learning and new updates to Spark and Hadoop

We’ve made major investments to Azure HDInsight, the managed Hadoop-as-a-service offering from Microsoft. HDInsight can now run 100 per cent open-source R to do machine learning and has new updates on the latest Hadoop and Spark components from Hortonworks. Spark for HDInsight in Azure Data Lake, previously announced as a public preview, is now available on the latest Apache Spark 1.6 edition.

Microsoft Power BI Embedded in public preview

Microsoft Power BI Embedded is a new Azure service that provides fully interactive, stunning and always up-to-date data visualisations in customer-facing apps, without requiring the time and expense of having to build them from the ground up. Customers can choose from a broad range of modern Power BI data visualisations straight out of the box or easily build their own custom visualisations. Customers get consistent data visualisation experiences on all devices, desktop or mobile. They can automate the complete deployment with Azure Resource Manager APIs and Power BI APIs. And customers can scale automatically as their application grows whilst remaining in complete control of costs with the Pay-as-you-go consumption-based pricing model. For more information, please visit the Power BI Embedded documentation web page.

Microsoft Cognitive Services in public preview

Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of APIs available to developers to help make their applications more intelligent and engaging. This set of standalone services expands on our evolving portfolio of machine learning APIs and lets developers easily add intelligent features – such as vision, speech, language and knowledge capabilities – to their solutions.

Announcing new Azure IoT Starter Kits

Getting Internet of Things (IoT) projects started quickly and easily is a near-universal challenge in this growing market. We’re announcing something new that will lower those barriers: our line-up of five new Azure IoT Starter Kits that help developers design, prototype and test new devices for use in any IoT solution.

More ways to purchase Microsoft Azure Active Directory Basic

You can now purchase Microsoft Azure Active Directory Basic online through the Direct programme, as well as through a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, the Open Volume Licence Programme and the Cloud Solution Provider programme. To purchase, sign in to the Office 365 Administration Portal. For more information about the purchase process, please watch this video.

New offer for customers using ExpressRoute for Office 365 traffic

The Azure ExpressRoute Premium tier has three distinct advantages over the non-Premium version of the service: global connectivity, a larger number of virtual networks and a larger number of routes (private and public peering). As of 1 April 2016, customers are able to provision the Premium service by licensing a single plan instead of two (non-Premium and Premium add-on). The Premium tier is required for customers using ExpressRoute to access Office 365 (Microsoft peering enabled). Customers with fewer than 500 seats who use ExpressRoute to access Office 365 can still purchase ExpressRoute Premium, based on the revised (lower) prices, effective 1 April 2016. On 1 May 2016, we’ll simplify the licensing experience for this offer, allowing customers to sign up for a single plan.

Ability to switch offer now available

Customers can now switch their Pay-as-you-go subscription to another offer via the Azure Account Center. We’ll continue to add more options based on demand. Pay-as-you-go subscriptions can be switched to one of the following: a 12-month Commitment prepaid offer with a discount on Azure services, or any of the monthly Azure credit offers for Visual Studio subscribers.

Advanced Support for Partners

Advanced Support for Partners is a cloud-focused support offering that sits squarely between MPN Technical Services and Premier Support for Partners, with benefits that include a response time of less than one hour for critical support issues; Services Account Managers to serve as support advisors; and proactive guidance and training to accelerate your cloud business at an affordable monthly subscription price. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Help us to improve the Azure documentation in your language

The Azure Documentation Center is now accepting contributions in German and Brazilian Portuguese. Until now, this feature was solely enabled for English documentation, but now international users can help improve the quality of localised documentation through their feedback and contributions. Would you like to start contributing? Find out more.

Be Empowered

Azure Notification Hubs for mobile applications

Azure Friday’s Scott Hanselman learns about Azure Notification Hubs for mobile apps and devices. Sending notifications to your users and their devices is easier than you think. You can get notifications running in minutes! Take a look at this demo-packed episode.

Cross-platform mobile-app development with Microsoft tools

The move from browser to apps creates pressure on web developers to create, test and manage high-performance apps on iOS, Android and Windows platforms. Microsoft Visual Studio offers a cross-platform approach to building apps from a single code base and deploying to any iOS, Android or Windows platform for a native-application look and feel. Learn how Visual Studio works with Xamarin and Apache Cordova; see why sharing code and business logic increases productivity; discover the benefits of platform-specific IntelliSense; and find out how Visual Studio employs a holistic or mix-and-match approach to supporting devs. Sign up for this on-demand webinar now.

Integrate, deliver and deploy continuously with cloud DevOps

Delivering high-quality, modern applications requires DevOps tools and processes. In this webinar from 27 April 2016 (10:00 a.m. Pacific Time [UTC-7]), learn how your dev teams can be more productive with Microsoft application life cycle management. Discover better ways to collaborate and embrace DevOps to continuously deliver greater value. Take advantage of new monitoring and analytics capabilities so your applications written in any language and targeting any platform are always available, performing and succeeding.

Cloud Cover: Azure App Service Local Cache

In this episode, learn how Local Cache enables your apps to store their code on the local VMs running their site. Normally, apps are run from a network-based disk, but changing to local storage on the VM can greatly improve performance of languages such as PHP, Node.js and any other platform that frequently needs to read the files running it. Turn on Local Cache by adding two application settings into your App Service settings.

Speed deployment of Node.js applications on Azure with Bitnami

Developers love using Bitnami application stacks in Azure – a powerful and flexible way to automate building, dev, testing and production environments for open-source solutions in the cloud. With more than 100 applications and stacks for Azure, Bitnami eliminates the complexity involved in installing server software, so anyone, anywhere can deploy software in minutes, getting up and running on Azure with your latest, favourite apps in just one click. Register to watch this webinar on demand.

Build your first Node.js app and publish it on Azure

This video walks you through the steps of building your first Node.js app from scratch, all the way to deploying it on Azure. Watch the video.

How Azure Machine Learning helped predict the results of the NCAA March Madness tournament

What if you could improve your March Madness bracket using Azure Machine Learning? Tune in for this insightful interview as Jennifer Marsman welcomes Damon Hachmeister to the show. They discuss just how Damon used Machine Learning to improve his rankings in last year’s NCAA tournament.

Building recommendation systems in Azure

Watch this free course to find out why machine learning and data science are so popular. You’ll discover the many ways Azure Machine Learning can be applied – including predicting football scores, providing personalised recommendations in online shops and keeping manufacturing plants running smoothly with predictive maintenance. You’ll get an introduction to Machine Learning and see how to build recommendation systems.

Orchestrating data and services with Azure Data Factory

Watch this course to discover the basic capabilities of Azure Data Factory. You’ll get an overview of advanced analytics and learn how Data Factory fits into Cortana Analytics Suite. Plus, you’ll find out how to operate a data factory as part of an analytics solution. Demos during the course help you learn how to create, manage, monitor and extend a data factory.

Understanding advanced analytics to build a stronger retail customer experience

Let’s cut through the hype around advanced analytics and learn about lead generation, targeting and innovation in customer experiences with the help of advanced analytics. We’ll demonstrate the power of breaking down silos in capturing, analysing and executing on data-driven decisions throughout your organisation. You’ll learn about best practices and the tools that you can use to capitalise on advanced analytics, and you’ll see how other companies are using advanced analytics to optimise operations. Register now to view on demand.

Missed Global Azure Bootcamp 2016?

Every year, hundreds of user groups around the world engage in the Global Azure Bootcamp. On 16 April 2016, thousands of attendees showed up to learn about the Azure platform and to have fun on a global scale. Lots of sessions and workshops were hosted by local community enthusiasts, many of whom are Microsoft MVPs. This fantastic global event is a true testament to the overall passion for cloud technology and the Azure platform! Have a look at all the great memories from Global Azure Bootcamp 2016!

Are my robots going to attack me? Tips for a secure IoT strategy

In this on-demand webinar, watch as we examine IoT security strategies and discover how to bolster yours with secure devices, safe connections and a trustworthy cloud. Watch now.

Tackle the top 5 data challenges with SQL Server

In this informative data webinar scheduled for 28 April 2016 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time (UTC-7), our experts answer questions and discuss how to tackle the top five data challenges with Microsoft SQL Server. Register now.

Particle Photon Weather Station part 1 of 6: Overview and event hub setup

In this new six-part series, watch as Particle Photon is used with a DHT11 sensor to publish data via a Particle Cloud Webhook to an Azure event hub. Then, take a look at how those messages are consumed with Azure Stream Analytics and Power BI, as well as Node.js and .NET. Watch now.

Microsoft Envision 2016 keynotes and highlights

If you were unable to attend the inaugural Microsoft Envision 2016 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 4-6 April 2016, you can still take a look at the keynotes and more than 70 video highlights on the Microsoft Envision YouTube channel. This new event brought business leaders together from around the world for an inspiring week of ideas, conversations and insights on how technology can empower business transformation.

O365: Securing mobile productivity

Mobility isn’t a novelty – it’s a business necessity. Employees must be able to access corporate email, documents and productivity tools from their devices to stay productive on the go. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about becoming a secure mobile workforce with Microsoft, including in-depth demos. Watch on demand now.

Be Entertained

*Comic source: Reprinted with permission.

Be Inspired

Transforming global hospitality with cloud services

The travel and tourism industry – already the world’s largest employer and the producer of 9 per cent of the global GDP – is projected to get a lot bigger. In fact, the number of tourists is expected to double over the next 20 years. Today, wireless connectivity is the norm. Aware of such trends, businesses such as Newmarket, an Amadeus company, are looking for new ways to shape the future of hospitality.

Learn more

IT company saves $400,000 USD a year and simplifies archiving with hybrid cloud storage solution

Convergent Computing needed to control its storage costs better whilst retaining data that employees and regulators require. The company deployed the StorSimple 8100 hybrid storage array to take advantage of the nearly unlimited cloud-based storage and to ease management overhead. The company expects to reduce storage costs by up to 70 per cent whilst gaining a better way to handle disaster-recovery testing in the process.

Be Enhanced


Simplify migration of your database workloads

The ScaleArc database load-balancing software simplifies the migration of database workloads onto Azure. The software can aggregate Azure A3 instances, for example, to appear on the app as one large database server. Microsoft customers can then run apps and databases in Azure with no code changes. It also supports cross-region failover. ScaleArc supports SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle databases.

Watch video

Azure Marketplace

Featured: Yellowfin boosts business intelligence user adoption with collaboration

IDC’s study, Collaboration in the Age of Big Data, found a strong link between collaboration amongst business users and data analysts and the success of analytics projects. Boost user adoption and improve collaboration using Yellowfin’s innovative platform for creating and sharing analytic content. Discover why Yellowfin was named the top-ranked business intelligence platform for collaboration in its vendor peer group in BARC’s The BI Survey 15.

Visit Marketplace page

New: CloudBolt brings you a simply powerful cloud management platform

CloudBolt enables enterprise IT to operate as a cloud service provider. It works with new and existing environments, integrating on-premises virtualisation and private cloud resources with public clouds, configuration management tools and domain-specific technologies. Users can rapidly provision resources using an intuitive self-service portal and maintain control through configuration standards, usage quotas and cost transparency. Watch one of their videos.

Visit Marketplace page

Editor's Note


We hope you were inspired by what you heard and saw at Build 2016 and Microsoft Envision. If you missed them, take a look at them online. Our team has been busy improving the newsletter; you may have noticed some of our changes. What do you think of our current content: too long, too short, just right? Would you prefer to see just the headlines and read the articles in an online version? Let us know!