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Featured customer-submitted story: Formiik

Formiik is a mobile platform for loan officers in Latin America, helping reduce interest rates for millions of customers in their regions. Formiik have been using Azure since 2010, and they couldn’t be happier. Azure Cloud Services, Azure SQL Database and Azure Storage help enable them to reliably serve 10,000 users across Latin America today.

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!

Azure Automation Desired State Configuration generally available

Deploying and maintaining the desired state of your servers and application resources can be tedious and error prone. Azure Automation Desired State Configuration (DSC) can help you to consistently deploy, reliably monitor and automatically update the desired state of all of your IT resources at scale from the cloud. Built on PowerShell DSC, Azure Automation DSC can align machine configuration with a specific state across physical and virtual machines (VMs), using Windows or Linux, and in the cloud or on-premises. You can enable continuous IT services delivery with consistent control and manage rapid change across your heterogeneous hybrid IT environment with ease. Azure Automation DSC is generally available in Free and Basic tiers. It is also included as part of the System Center add-on for Microsoft Operations Management Suite, the simplified hybrid cloud IT management solution for any enterprise.

Azure Premium Storage generally available in an additional region

Azure Premium Storage is a solid-state drive (SSD)-based storage solution designed to support I/O-intensive workloads. With Premium Storage, you can add up to 64 TB of persistent storage per VM, with more than 80,000 I/O Operations Per Second (IOPS) per VM and extremely low latencies for read operations. Offering an SLA for 99.9 per cent availability, Premium Storage is now available in the South Central US region, as well as other regions previously announced.

Microsoft Operations Management Suite alert notification and remediation in public preview

Receiving and managing alerts, then taking action across heterogeneous hybrid environments can be stressful. Today, you can easily set up custom alerts and even automatically fix operational issues. The alert notification and remediation feature of Microsoft Operations Management Suite leverages the log analytics and automation capabilities across physical and virtual machines, using Windows or Linux, in the cloud or on-premises, helping enable seamless IT operations. In public preview, this feature is included in Microsoft Operations Management Suite.

Azure Role-Based Access Control with custom roles generally available

Azure Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) provides fine-grained access management for Azure resources, so you can grant users the exact rights they need to perform their jobs using built-in or custom roles. RBAC is provided at no additional cost to Azure subscribers. To learn more, visit the Active Directory Team Blog or watch this video on Channel 9.

PHP developers can enjoy real-time insight into running PHP applications with Z-Ray – now on Azure

Zend Z-Ray for Azure App Service, now generally available, gives developers insight into entire PHP applications, including execution time, exceptions and errors, and SQL queries used. With Zend’s gallery of plugins, developers can also use Zend Z-Ray to see how every line of code is performing as it’s executing, whether it’s a Magento event, a Drupal module, a WordPress plugin or a PHP framework function. Building on our strategic partnership with Zend Technologies, a Rogue Wave company, Zend Z-Ray is integrated with the app management experience and easy to enable through the Settings blade of the Azure portal. Watch this quick video to see Zend Z-Ray for Azure in action.

Microsoft R Server comes to Volume Licensing

Microsoft R Server is an enterprise-class analytics platform for R. Supporting a variety of big-data statistics, predictive modelling and machine-learning capabilities, R Server includes Open Source R and is fully compatible with R scripts, functions and CRAN packages. With R Server for Hadoop on Red Hat, you can perform advanced analysis on big data in Hadoop clusters in the familiar R environment. And with R Server for Teradata DB, you can bring the analytics to the data by having R Server’s high-performance parallelised algorithms run in-database on Teradata databases, without the overhead of the traditional extract-and-analyse paradigm. Contact your Microsoft Sales Representative or Black Belt for more information.

Simplified protection of workloads in Azure with Azure Site Recovery

Protecting VMware and physical servers in Azure is even easier and more affordable with the latest update to Azure Site Recovery. Running in Azure used to require deploying two VMs: a Master Target (MT) and a Configuration Server (CS). By implementing the MT within Azure and colocating the CS with the process server on-premises, we’ve removed the requirement and associated costs of deploying these additional VMs. For more information, please visit the Azure Blog. For the technical details about setting up VMware and physical servers to Azure, please visit the Replicate VMware virtual machines and physical servers to Azure with Azure Site Recovery documentation web page. Azure Site Recovery is generally available in Microsoft Operations Management Suite.

New Premium plans for Microsoft Azure RemoteApp and incentives for existing RDS CAL owners

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp now includes two new pricing plans. Premium and Premium Plus are for customers requiring more computing resources for their Windows apps hosted in Azure RemoteApp. Both plans include a five-user minimum, which addresses one of the top requests on our feedback forum for a plan that supports fewer than 20 users. Customers who have either Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite licences or existing Remote Data Services (RDS) client access licences (CALs) with Software Assurance may be eligible to purchase RemoteApp with a discount of as much as 80 per cent per user per month.

More ways to purchase Azure Multi-Factor Authentication

Azure Multi-Factor Authentication can now be purchased through Volume Licensing, the Cloud Solution Provider programme, Open and Direct as an annual user-based model – just like Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Intune and Azure Rights Management. This new offer includes the same feature set as the existing offerings – it’s just a different way to purchase Multi-Factor Authentication, which better aligns with how Office 365 and Azure Active Directory Basic and Premium are purchased. Multi-Factor Authentication will continue to be included as part of Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite and Enterprise Cloud Suite. For more information on the versions and features available, please visit the "Available versions of Azure Multi-Factor Authentication" section of the How Azure Multi-Factor Authentication works documentation web page.

Self-service subscription transfer now globally available

You can transfer a subscription to a colleague, a different account that you own or even someone in a different organisation. This feature is now globally available for intranational transfers of the following subscription types: Pay-As-You-Go; MSDN Dev and Test Pay-As-You-Go; Visual Studio Professional subscribers; Visual Studio Test Professional subscribers; MSDN Platforms subscribers; Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN (benefit); Visual Studio Enterprise (BizSpark) subscribers; and Action Pack.

Be Empowered

Remote profiling in Azure

Azure Friday’s Scott Hanselman learns how Visual Studio 2015 now includes remote profiling of web applications running within Azure App Service. That means you can profile a live running application inside Azure. Watch now.

Security in a cloud-enabled world

Get cybersecurity planning insights from experienced Microsoft experts as they walk you through the customer responsibility roadmap in the Microsoft Cloud Security for Enterprise Architects poster. Whether you’re securing IT assets in a public cloud or a hybrid implementation, or you’re concerned about the increase in cybersecurity threats, don’t miss this opportunity to learn the same framework the Microsoft cybersecurity team uses. Watch this on-demand course.

Bring your laptop and get hands-on with Azure

Using real-world scenarios, explore how to bring your data centre into the cloud while optimising on-premises solutions. The Microsoft IT Innovation Series offers free, hands-on opportunities to discover how Azure infrastructure services boost productivity and provide reliable data access across platforms – including OSS compatibility. Find an event near you!

Cloud Cover: Azure Redis Cache Premium tier

In this episode, learn about Azure Redis Cache Premium tier. The Premium tier supports new functionality including persistence, Redis Cluster and Azure Virtual Network, along with better performance.

You may also be interested in learning about the newly announced PowerApps, or listening to recaps of major Azure announcements from the past few months.

Developing websites using Python and Django

Web developers, watch this on-demand course to get the details on Django, the very popular (and very powerful) open-source web development platform for Python. With your knowledge of Python and familiarity with database concepts, get ready to add something new to your technology toolkit!

Extending System Center to the cloud with Microsoft Operations Management Suite

Join our new webinar on 16 February 2016, at 10:00 Pacific Time (UTC-8) to learn about extending the value of System Center with Microsoft Operations Management Suite. We’ll discuss what to expect from System Center in 2016. You’ll learn advanced cloud management capabilities, including analytics to ease troubleshooting on infrastructures and apps; flexible configuration and change tracking; automation to minimise repetitive tasks; backup and disaster recovery to protect your data centre; and rapid response to security events. It operates from one central, easy-to-deploy-and-use console. Register for this webinar today.

Register for “Tackle the top five data challenges with SQL Server” webinar

Data provides new market opportunities, giving you a competitive advantage. At the same time, data growth introduces major challenges. In this webinar held on 28 January 2016, at 10:00 Pacific Time (UTC-8), you’ll learn how to tackle five of the top data challenges organisations face today: app and data performance; data security; decision support; big data; and the cloud. Connect directly with experts who will answer your questions about SQL Server capabilities. Register for this free webinar now.

SQL Server 2005 upgrade: The path to better database performance and security

Extended support for SQL Server 2005 ends in April 2016. In this on-demand webinar, you’ll find out about the risks of continuing to rely on ageing technology and the many benefits of migrating to SQL Server 2014 and Azure SQL Database. Experts at Microsoft and Intel will give you helpful migration strategies and scenarios, a practical three-step approach to the upgrade process and important tools and resources to get you started.

Four essentials to IT management in the new hybrid world

With the rise of shadow IT and more departments owning IT budgets, it’s a challenge for IT pros to maintain order in new hybrid data centres. In this on-demand webinar, you’ll learn about the challenges driving modern IT management. We’ll talk about how to have a more comprehensive view of your entire network, both what’s on-premises and in the cloud; how to proactively address security, performance and provisioning concerns; and how new Microsoft technologies can help you lead innovative operations management in your organisation.

Start asking the right questions about cloud security

Scalability, agility and savings are part of any cloud strategy, but how certain are you of the security benefits? What questions should you be asking your current cloud service provider to guarantee you have a sound strategy in place? Learn how to critically assess your current cloud infrastructure and learn more about efforts made by Microsoft to deliver a cloud that you can trust and that addresses your needs across security, privacy/control, compliance and transparency. Register now to view this webinar on demand.

Key cloud considerations for disaster recovery

The cloud can be a powerful resource for organisations looking to simplify their disaster recovery, but does it make sense for yours? Cloud-based disaster recovery can provide faster deployment times, reduce capital and operational costs, offer non-disruptive testing and allow for more applications to be brought into protection. Join us for this on-demand webinar to learn more about moving disaster recovery to the cloud and how companies are using Azure Site Recovery to bring more agility and protection to their organisation.

Accelerate business success using your data and devices

Discover the practical technology trends you can use to transform data into actionable business intelligence and stay ahead of your competition. Build these simpler, faster and more cost-effective ways to drive new insights on the systems and technologies you already have. During this 30-minute on-demand webinar, you’ll learn how to leverage your existing data and assets for the biggest impact. These simple changes help you to spend less time wondering about your business and more time taking action. Register to view this webinar on demand now.

Move dev-test for business apps onto Azure

Learn how IT pros who are accustomed to using on-premises VMware environments can move dev-test for business apps onto Azure. IT pros and developers need the infrastructure to design, develop, test and deliver high-quality applications at a competitive pace. This is the third in our Dev-Test Starts with IT series. Register to view this on-demand webinar.

Why enterprise mobility management with Microsoft?

You need an end-to-end solution that simplifies identity, device, application and data management. This webinar demonstrates how to keep your employees productive on their favourite apps and devices, while ensuring your company data is protected. This 30-minute webinar, held on 27 January 2016, at 10:00 Pacific Time (UTC-8), will include a high-level overview, demo and live Q&A. Register now.

Be Entertained

*Comic source: http://www.cloudtweaks.com. Reprinted with permission.

Be Inspired

Making healthcare safer and more efficient with Azure

Although many healthcare facilities are transitioning to electronic health records (EHR), manual, paper-based processes still burden staff and put patients at risk. Keeping track of multiple patients and their medical histories can make it all too easy to make errors or take shortcuts, especially when dispensing medication.

Learn more

Be Enhanced

Partners

Try new hot technologies with Chef and Docker

Do you live and breathe code? Face it, you’re superhuman! Want to try two of the hottest DevOps technologies on Azure? Microsoft has partnered with Chef, which supports infrastructure automation, and Docker, an application development-management solution, to offer step-by-step, hands-on labs. Try the labs and you’ll be eligible to receive your choice of a Crazyflie 2.0 drone or a free Azure Pass.

Register now

Transform your business with Bing Maps for Microsoft Azure IoT Suite

As part of Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, Bing Maps extends data analysis to geospatial visualisation, so you can visualise multiple layers of business data on a map. Statistics show that 80 per cent of business data has a geospatial component. Viewing data in this context quickly reveals patterns and relationships that can help increase efficiency, productivity and product or service quality. The Bing Maps service offering includes 10,000 free transactions per month for internal website applications.

Learn more

Azure Marketplace

Featured: Providing the ultimate in data protection, locally and in the cloud

Datacastle RED is a centrally managed, scalable, secure platform as a service (PaaS) offering for endpoint backup powered by Azure. It provides the ultimate in data protection, locally and in the cloud, and allows you to secure business continuity without disruption. Datacastle provides one year of free endpoint backup and protection licensing for qualifying customers with Microsoft Azure Enterprise Agreements in North America and Europe.

Visit Marketplace page

New: Help make big-data analytics easy for everyone

With Datameer, the entire process of data integration, preparation, analytics and sharing the final visualisations is self-service. Datameer leverages Hadoop as the powerful big-data engine that it is, but replaces its command-line tools, scripts and programming interfaces with a spreadsheet interface that’s immediately intuitive to business users. Together, Azure HDInsight and Datameer provide an end-to-end big-data analytics solution running natively in Hadoop, with much lower cost and complexity than BI-Hadoop hybrid approaches.

Visit Marketplace page

Editor's Note

Happy New Year!

We hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season and that you’re as excited as we are to welcome the new year with all it has in store – especially when it comes to cloud innovations. As we continue improving Azure to further empower your business, we’d also like to celebrate your accomplishments. Have you seen the customer-submitted stories featured in the newsletter since November? Yours could be next! Please take a few minutes to tell us your Azure story.

Miwa