Azure Newsletter: December 2016

Stay informed about the latest Azure features, events and community activities. Browse through past newsletters or subscribe and get the latest Azure news delivered to your inbox.

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Featured customer-submitted story: Hollywood Software

In January 2016, Shireburn Software launched Shireburn Indigo Payroll, the payroll and leave management software hosted on Azure, designed, developed and supported by its own team. Shireburn Indigo utilises Azure as a platform rather than just for hosting virtual servers. Client uptake targets were exceeded, with more than 125 companies and 1,900 employees going live on the system in just the first year. These companies can now manage the payroll and have its employees apply for and manage their own holidays, absences and profile information through a self-service, web-based portal.

Shireburn Software

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Be informed

Visit the Azure portal to get started with Azure Advisor

Now in public preview, Azure Advisor is a personalised recommendation engine that provides guidance for optimally configuring your Azure resources. Azure Advisor analyses your resource configuration and usage telemetry and recommends solutions to reduce costs and improve the security, performance and reliability of your applications. Visit the Azure portal today to get started. For more information, visit the Azure Blog.

Azure Advisor

Azure Active Directory pass-through authentication in public preview

Pass-through authentication lets users sign in to cloud apps by validating their password against an on-premises Active Directory. It allows customers who don't want to store passwords in the cloud to onboard Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) without the need to install products such as ADFS or similar third-party federation solutions. Pass-through authentication is available via Azure AD Connect. In addition to authentication, it enables seamless single sign-on from Windows devices.

New performance choices for Azure SQL Database elastic pools

New elastic pool sizes and pools with higher database limits are now available in Azure SQL Database. The new elastic pool choices lower the starting price, decrease the cost per database and reduce price jumps between pool sizes. The larger elastic pool choices with higher database bursting limits in the Premium tier are for especially demanding workloads.

Query Store now enabled by default for Azure SQL Database

Query Store is now turned on in all Azure SQL Database instances. Query Store acts as a "flight data recorder" for the database by continuously collecting critical information about queries and helping to reduce resolution time, because pre-collected relevant data is immediately available. Use Query Store when it's critical to track performance. To learn more, visit the Query Store Usage Scenarios web page and read the Query Store flight data post on the Azure Blog and the Operating the Query Store documentation web page.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse now generally available in additional regions

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is now generally available in additional regions: North Central US, Germany Central and Germany Northeast. SQL Data Warehouse is your go-to SQL-based view across data, offering a fast, fully managed, petabyte-scale cloud solution. It decouples compute and storage for the freedom to scale and size your environment appropriately. You only pay for the storage you use and the compute you want at the times when you need it. Plus, SQL Data Warehouse offers the unique option to pause compute, giving you more freedom to better manage your cloud costs.

Azure DocumentDB: Local instance preview and .NET Core support

Effective immediately, Azure DocumentDB introduces both local instance preview and .NET Core support. The local instance for DocumentDB is a client-side, high-fidelity service emulator that supports the complete DocumentDB API and stores data/collections locally. .NET Core is a lightweight and modular platform to create applications and services that run on Linux, Mac and Windows. To learn more about local instance preview and .NET Core support, please visit the Azure Blog.

Azure DocumentDB now generally available in Brazil South

Azure DocumentDB is a fast, global-scale NoSQL service for building highly available, globally distributed apps. With four well-defined consistency levels to help you achieve application performance at scale and the power of SQL and JavaScript, DocumentDB is designed for large-scale cloud applications. DocumentDB is generally available in Brazil South.

Azure introduces single-instance virtual machine SLA

In late November 2016, we introduced a 99.9 per cent single-instance virtual machine service-level agreement (SLA) to better support applications that cannot easily scale beyond single virtual machines in the cloud. To qualify for this SLA, all storage disks attached to the virtual machine must use Premium Storage, which offers a high level of availability and performance. For applications that require high availability, continue to leverage availability sets or Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets.

GPU instances for Azure Virtual Machines generally available

N-Series virtual machines are generally available across more regions in the United States, Europe and Asia, adding to the public preview already available. N-Series virtual machines are powered in collaboration with NVIDIA, and provide best-in-class GPU instances to run compute workloads and visualise data. To learn more about this service, please visit the Virtual Machines web page.

NC and NV-based instances for Azure Virtual Machines available

NC-based instances are powered by NVIDIA's Tesla K80 GPUs and provide the compute power required to accelerate the most-demanding HPC and AI workloads. NV-based instances are powered by NVIDIA's Tesla M60 GPUs and offer NVIDIA's GRID capabilities on demand. To learn more about this service, please visit the Virtual Machines web page.

How-to video: Create a Windows Server Virtual Machine

Learn how to create a Windows Server virtual machine and manage it with Remote Desktop. Watch now.

How to create a Windows Server Virtual Machine Video

Try Azure Container Service, the cloud's most open option for containers

We recently announced a series of updates to Azure Container Service that continue to demonstrate that Azure Container Service is the most streamlined, open and flexible way to run your container applications in the cloud. The updates include: Kubernetes support in Azure Container Service (in preview), a DC/OS upgrade to 1.8.4, the open-source Azure Container Service Engine, Azure Container Registry (in preview) and continuous integration and deployment to Azure Container Service (in preview). For more information, visit the Azure Blog.

SAP HANA on Azure

We've introduced new compute configurations to support SAP HANA deployments. As of 1 December 2016, we offer configurations to support tiers of up to 4 TB in East US and West US. The new tiers are based on the latest-generation Intel Broadwell chips. They allow you to scale out by up to 32 TB with the new 2 TB tier for online analytical processing (OLAP) workloads, and by up to 4 TB for scale-up online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads. The new tiers replaced the 144-thread tiers offered previously. We'll continue to support older tiers for existing customers.

R Server for Azure HDInsight generally available

R Server for Azure HDInsight is a scale-out implementation of R integrated with Spark clusters created from HDInsight. R Studio Server, the most popular IDE for R, is now installed by default. This gives your data scientists a browser-based interface for code execution and debugging, as well as workspace management that many are already familiar with.

Azure Machine Learning now available in Japan East and East US 2 regions

Azure Machine Learning is a fully managed service that you can use to create, test, operate and manage predictive analytic solutions in the cloud. It's now available in additional Azure data centres: Japan East and East US 2. In Japan East, customers can easily train their machine-learning models with Azure ML Studio, then deploy and run them as web services. For East US 2, customers can deploy web services. For more information, please visit the Azure Blog.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Bing Search APIs additional pricing tier

Starting on 12 January 2017, in response to customer feedback, we are introducing an additional pricing tier for Bing Search APIs called "Standard S6", which includes 10 million maximum transactions, with a dedicated overage rate, "S6 Overage". This tier will help customers easily order a higher-base volume of transactions with scaleable usage through the overage rate.

Learn about Azure Analysis Services in this Azure Friday video

Azure Friday's Scott Hanselman learns about the preview of Azure Analysis Services. This service is built on the proven analytics engine in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services and provides enterprise-grade data modelling in the cloud. Watch now.

Learn about Azure Analysis Video

Azure Application Insights generally available

Azure Application Insights (formerly Visual Studio Application Insights) is an integrated application performance management (APM) and application analytics solution. It offers development teams application performance monitoring, application maps to visualize performance constraints, machine learning-based anomaly detection and powerful alerting with embedded diagnostics information. Learn more in this short video.

Visual Studio Team Services: Package Management extension generally available

The Package Management extension helps you move to DevOps workflows with continuous integration and delivery. It hosts your NuGet packages so that you don't need to host private NuGet servers and file shares. Support for npm packages is also included as a public preview. Package Management is sold per user per month and is included for Visual Studio Enterprise subscribers (Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN, Visual Studio Enterprise – annual, and Visual Studio Enterprise – monthly). Start your free trial of Package Management.

Be empowered

Enterprise Integration with Azure Logic Apps

Jon Fancey joins the Azure Friday team to talk about Azure Logic Apps, iPaaS and enterprise integration. Watch now.

Enterprise Integration with Azure Logic Apps Video

Pre-register for Microsoft Ignite

Join us at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando in the US from 25-29 September 2017. Microsoft Ignite gives you five days of hands-on learning, industry insights and direct access to Azure experts – all in one place. Join us for Interactive Digital Labs, deep dives, demos, product road maps, visions and strategies. Secure your spot now and have the first choice of hotels in March 2017! Pre-register now.

Microsoft Tech Summit is coming to you – register today

Attend a free, two-day technical training event to build your cloud and infrastructure skills. Discover how our enterprise solutions can help you be more successful and productive, so you can add value to your organisation. Choose from more than 70 training sessions, participate in hands-on labs and get access to experts. Don't miss out! Find an event near you, or save the date to watch a keynote livestream.

Join us for the complimentary Azure Marketplace virtual lab series

If you're interested in solutions such as Veeam, Mesosphere, F5 or Barracuda, but aren't sure how to get started, join us for a complimentary virtual lab. The Azure Marketplace virtual lab series, which is now running into January 2017, will cover how to directly deploy these apps to Azure in 45 minutes or less through a hands-on demo. Register now.

Azure Marketplace Labs

Use the IT Pro Career Center to stay relevant

Take the personality traits survey to discover which cloud role is best for you. It only takes about 15 minutes. Then, follow the courses for your selected cloud role to learn the skills that you need to advance your career in cloud technology. Get started – it's free.

Cloud Cover: Azure Active Directory B2C

In this episode, get a basic introduction to Azure Active Directory B2C. Watch the end-to-end process of creating a B2C tenant, registering an application, configuring different policies and customising user experiences.

Enterprise Integration with Azure Logic Apps Video

You may also be interested in the episode about DDD and CQRS on Service Fabric with MediaValet.

Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions

Build an ASP.NET MVC app on Azure and prepare for Microsoft Certification exam 70-532 with this Microsoft on edX course. Stay up to date with Azure technologies and learn how to make your existing web applications better, more scaleable and more flexible. In this six-week self-paced course, learn to build a web app that's connected to Azure SQL Database and Azure Active Directory, on an enterprise scale and in the cloud, and get the latest on Azure Resource Manager. Take the course.

Microsoft Azure for IT Pros Content Series: Virtual Machines

In this instalment of a series of training courses designed to teach you all about Azure, you'll learn about Azure Virtual Machines and how we implement virtual machines in Azure. Other high-level concepts that relate to Virtual Machines will be explored, including disks, storage, high availability and templates. You'll also learn about configuration, deployment and management. Don't miss it! Watch now.

Internet of Things class: Containers using Azure and Docker

Want to speed up your releases? Need to quickly scale your app? Build your first container using Docker on Hyper V. In this 30-minute, hands-on virtual lab, you will be guided through the basics of installing, deploying and managing a Docker container, as well as the fundamentals on incorporating Docker on Hyper V into your current development plans.

Case study: Enhancing threat detection at Microsoft using Microsoft Cloud App Security

In our cloud-first, mobile-first environment, the use of cloud apps is on the rise. To help protect corporate data, Microsoft IT uses Microsoft Cloud App Security to discover and identify cloud applications in use on our network, assessing security risks for any app. With the Cloud App Security Portal, we monitor suspicious behaviour patterns and unusual activity and detect threats. Cloud App Security provides protection for our network and greater visibility into our environment. Read more on IT Showcase.

Increase your cloud knowledge for free

Sharpen your skills with training courses from Pluralsight and Microsoft Virtual Academy. The IT Pro Cloud Essentials programme offers cloud services, education and support benefits to help create your path to career advancement. Join now.

Case study: Microsoft IT transforms teleworking culture in Japan

Japan's business culture values face-to-face interaction. This has slowed the widespread adoption of teleworking. However, demographic changes and a government mandate are making worker mobility a top priority. Microsoft IT in Japan is advancing the transformation to a mobile-first, cloud-first workplace by offering business solutions and demonstrating the benefits of teleworking to employers and workers alike. Read more on IT Showcase.

Be entertained


*Comic source: Reprinted with permission.

Be inspired

Digital advertising company gets answers from terabytes of data with Azure platform

Making more sales requires building an emotional connection with consumers. That marketing tenet is as true today as it was decades ago. However, finding ways to reach a receptive user and establish a connection has become more complicated. It's no longer just about developing a compelling message and targeting a user.

Learn more

Be enhanced


RemoteScan: Azure-based document scanning for virtual desktop users

RemoteScan: Azure-based document scanning for virtual desktop users RemoteScan helps eliminate hidden security risks for thousands of companies worldwide. Customers use it for healthcare, financial services, transport and logistics. Healthcare customers can scan insurance cards and patient records, use intraoral cameras and capture X-rays via hosted EMR software. Financial services customers scan sensitive documents into cloud-hosted banking or document management software. Transport and logistics customers scan bills of lading and proofs of delivery into cloud-hosted freight management software. Download your copy of RemoteScan today.

Azure Marketplace

Featured: Cybersecurity solutions from Imperva

Imperva Incapsula is a cloud-based application delivery service that helps protect websites and increases their performance, improving end-user experiences and safeguarding web applications and data from attack. Incapsula includes a web application firewall to thwart hacking attempts, DDoS mitigation to help ensure that attacks don't affect online assets, a load balancer, and a content delivery network to optimise and accelerate web traffic and environments.

Visit Marketplace page


Featured: Modernise your SAP landscape

88 per cent of America's SAP Users' Group members who implemented a project on HANA report positive business and IT values, with 75 per cent of those surveyed planning another project. Are you one of them? SUSE solutions in the public cloud let you start the digital transformation journey with a cost-effective pilot powered by Azure (access the Microsoft Quickstart Guide). Contact SUSE to see if you qualify for a free pilot or PoC for your first HANA project.

Featured: Cloud-native goes global with Pivotal Cloud Foundry on Azure

Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry cloud-native platform and the Azure infrastructure help enterprise developers rapidly deploy applications to the cloud using Java, .NET, Node.js and other popular frameworks. Founded on open-source software, Pivotal’s platform speeds up the time to market, unifying DevOps; offers continuous delivery, microservices and containers to realise the potential of the cloud; and helps you compete more effectively, acquire customers and grow revenue. Learn more.

Visit Marketplace page

Featured: Are built-in schedulers resulting in missed SLAs and business delays?

Control-M integrates the management of critical workload processes from a single point of control. With cross-application and cross-platform scheduling capabilities, this powerful workload automation solution accelerates the delivery of digital services and increases the quality of services delivered to your customers. Control-M has just launched a virtual machine extension to automate applications running in Azure.

Learn more

New: kiteworks by Accellion joins Azure Marketplace

Accellion, a leading provider in private cloud content collaboration, has announced its content collaboration platform, kiteworks. kiteworks is now a certified solution in Azure Marketplace. With kiteworks, users gain unified access into content systems such as SharePoint, CIFS Shares, Documentum and cloud stores such as OneDrive, Box and others, to access, edit, share and collaborate on content from any device.

Visit Marketplace page

Editor's note


Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their valuable feedback on our new design! It's always exciting (and sometimes worrisome) to send out design updates such as this, but we know that we can count on you to let us know if something isn't working for you. If you've noticed our festive banner at the top, I do realise that some of you are in warmer climates. Please take it as us sending you our snow and cheer from the Northern Hemisphere. We'll take some sunshine if you want to send it our way. We hope that, no matter what you're doing at this time of year, your 2016 is ending positively. See you in 2017!