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Azure Newsletter: March 2017

Stay informed on 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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Case Study Customer-submitted story: Unique Scheduling Solutions

Unique Scheduling Solutions (USS), a new SaaS company, uses Azure to host its FAST Scheduler. Designed to handle the most challenging scheduling environments, the FAST Scheduler has been adopted by manufacturers and project managers on three continents. Azure’s support helped USS grow and has given users confidence their data is secured and the service is reliable. The scheduling technology originated at NASA where it was used for mission planning. It succeeded there and at many Fortune 500 companies as an installed application. FAST has now moved to the Azure cloud where it is affordable for use by small and mid-sized companies and where they continue to offer their complex scheduling solution to large Fortune 500 companies.

Unique Scheduling Solutions

Download: Web developer’s guide to help eliminate non-coding tasks and get code done faster

Minimising your attack surface area with network-level security is one pain point that every web dev experiences. There are also necessary tasks like backups, scale planning and logging that cost you precious time. This e-book helps web developers eliminate a number of non-coding tasks and get coding faster. Some key areas include identifying usage patterns and trends, hooking into content distribution networks, customising search implementation, implementing your app’s user and access story and configuring servers to scale out automatically. Download now.

Image of code with caption: "Cutting Right to the Code: A web developer's guide to help eliminate non-coding tasks and get code done faster"

Global Azure Bootcamp: A massive, worldwide community event

#GlobalAzure is an annual happening owned and run by Azure enthusiasts all around the world. On 22nd April 2017, we go again! No community event is quite like this one. Several hundred user groups arrange free-to-attend events visited by more than ten thousand people eager to learn the latest and greatest about Azure. Local experts, including many MVPs, attend and present and many events feature hands-on workshops. Join #GlobalAzure with your user group by signing up to create your event!

Logo of 2017 Global Azure Bootcamp

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Be Informed

Azure DocumentDB: API for MongoDB generally available

The API for MongoDB is now generally available, inheriting the same 99.99 percent financially backed service-level agreement (SLA) as Azure DocumentDB. With this API, users can now achieve near-limitless scale, with support for managed sharded collections. To learn more about this API, visit the Azure Blog, the What is DocumentDB: API for MongoDB? documentation webpage or the DocumentDB: Database-as-a-Service for MongoDB Developers video.

Azure DocumentDB: Aggregate support, Emulator in Docker and Azure Search integration

Azure DocumentDB now supports aggregates at global scale in public preview. The DocumentDB query engine has built-in support for SQL aggregate operators COUNT, MIN, MAX, AVG and SUM. The DocumentDB Emulator is now available in a Docker container for Windows. And you can now add Azure Search to DocumentDB collections with the click of a button in the Azure portal. Learn more

Video: Azure DocumentDB support for aggregates

Azure Friday’s Scott Hanselman learns about support for aggregate functions at global scale in Azure DocumentDB; how to perform low-latency aggregation queries against large data sets without schema definitions or secondary indexes; and about other improvements in the DocumentDB query engine, such as reduced request units and support for polygon indexing. Watch now

New Azure SQL Database Premium RS tier

Available now in preview, Azure SQL Database Premium RS is designed for IO-intensive workloads where a limited durability guarantee and lower service-level agreement (SLA) are acceptable. Target scenarios for Premium RS are developments using in-memory technology, testing high-performance workloads and production analytic workloads. Premium RS is available for singleton databases and elastic database pools. Learn more

Blob Auditing in Azure SQL Database generally available

Blob Auditing in Azure SQL Database tracks database events and writes them to an audit log in your Azure Storage account, helping you maintain regulatory compliance, understand database activity and find discrepancies that could indicate business concerns or suspected security violations. Blob Auditing will replace the current Table Auditing (which is being deprecated), bringing better performance, higher granularity and lower storage costs to SQL Database auditing. Combining Blob Auditing with Threat Detection (in public preview) provides a new security layer to enable customers to detect, investigate and respond to potential threats as they occur.

4 TB option for P11 and P15 in Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database customers using P11 and P15 databases can now use up to 4 TB of included storage at no extra charge. Increasing the available storage to 4 TB is an important step toward reaching our commitment of providing more storage across all performance tiers, so customers can have more flexibility when choosing the best platform to run their applications.

Azure Data Factory adds support to more data ingest and transformation scenarios

Azure Data Factory lets you bring data from a rich variety of locations into Azure for advanced analytics and predictive modeling. To support more data ingest and transformation scenarios, we recently added support to Service Principal for Azure Data Lake Store Linked Service, a new Oracle driver, Zip compression, JSON array and Cloud Copy Execution Location. We also updated the Azure Machine Learning web service. Learn more

Direct loading into Azure SQL Data Warehouse from Azure Data Lake Store, support for loading UTF-16 encoded delimited text files

Azure Data Lake Store connectivity via external tables, support for loading UTF-16 encoded delimited text files and increased row width limit for PolyBase from 32 KB to 1 MB per row into Azure SQL Data Warehouse are now available. With the addition of Data Lake Store connectivity at your disposal, your warehouse can now connect to all Azure data storage services. Learn more

Azure Data Lake Analytics and Azure Data Lake Store now available in North Europe

Azure Data Lake Analytics and Azure Data Lake Store are now available in the North Europe region. Data Lake Analytics is a cloud analytics service for developing and running massively parallel data transformation and processing programmes in U-SQL, R, Python and .NET over petabytes of data. Data Lake Store is a no-limit cloud data lake built so enterprises can unlock value from unstructured, semi-structured and structured data.

Bing Speech API in Microsoft Cognitive Services generally available

Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of APIs that lets developers build intelligent apps by tapping into high-quality vision, speech, language, knowledge and search technologies, developed with decades of Microsoft research. Now generally available, the Bing Speech API makes it possible to convert audio to text, understand intent and convert text back to speech for natural responsiveness.

New smaller capacity Standard tier option in Azure Analysis Services

In order to provide additional pricing options for customers with smaller workloads, we added a new smaller capacity Standard tier (S0) to the Azure Analysis Services public preview. S0 joins S1, S2 and S4 in the Standard pricing tier. Analysis Services is available in public preview in two service tiers: Developer and Standard. The total cost of Analysis Services depends on how much you store, the processing power you need, as well as the outbound data transfers you run.

N-Series for Azure Virtual Machines available in additional regions

Following our general availability announcement and continuous rollout of N-Series instances of Azure Virtual Machines, we are announcing the availability of N-Series (NV/M60 for visualisation) in East US and North Central US regions, joining the already available South Central US, Southeast Asia and West Europe regions. We also expanded our NV/M60 capacity for South Central US. Current N-Series instances (NC/K80 for compute) are available in South Central US and East US regions.

Microsoft SQL Server Community Technology Preview 1.4 now available

Microsoft SQL Server vNext Community Technology Preview (CTP) 1.4 is now available on Windows, Linux, and Docker. Several feature enhancements were added to the preview, including the ability to schedule jobs using SQL Server Agent on Linux. Customers can preview CTP 1.4 in an Azure virtual machine for development and testing today.

Azure Active Directory: PingAccess in public preview

In September 2016, we announced that Microsoft and Ping Identity worked together to provide a version of PingAccess for Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). PingAccess for Azure AD is in public preview and will be provided at no additional cost to Azure AD Premium customers for up to 20 applications. For more applications, a full license of PingAccess from Ping Identity will be needed. This solution will extend the ability of Azure AD Application Proxy to provide single sign-on and secured remote access to a broader spectrum of on-premises web applications. Learn more

Export your Azure App Service certificate to any Azure service

Last year we introduced Azure App Service certificates, a user-friendly experience for creating App Service certificates and deploying them through Azure Key Vault to App Service apps. You can now create a local PFX copy of an App Service certificate so that you can use it with other Azure services. Learn more

Azure Content Delivery Network: Core Analytics generally available

Now generally available, Core Analytics in Azure Content Delivery Network lets you analyse bandwidth consumption, data transferred and cache hit ratio. The analytics capabilities are available for both Content Delivery Network from Verizon and Akamai. This release provides templates for integration with Microsoft Operations Management Suite. You can also access these metrics via REST APIs.

Visual Studio 2017 is here—upgrade and enable the Azure development workload now

Visual Studio 2017 brings unparalleled productivity for any dev, any app and any platform. Developing applications for Azure is a seamless integrated experience in the IDE you know and love. Visual Studio 2017 includes all you need to get started developing for Azure. Enable the Azure workload in Visual Studio 2017 and you are good to go. Watch the launch keynote and technical sessions on demand and attend a launch event in your area. Visual Studio subscribers or Dev Essentials members can sign in to see new benefits.

Image of Visual Studio 2017 logo with the caption: "It has landed! Download Visual Studio 2017"

Continuous Export now available in Azure Application Insights Basic pricing option

The Azure Application Insights Basic pricing option now offers the ability to purchase Continuous Export by GB. Continuous Export allows you to export the telemetry collected by your application to an external location such as Power BI. Continuous Export is unlimited when you choose the Application Insights Enterprise pricing option.

Get network visibility in Azure and on-premises with Microsoft Operations Management Suite Network Performance Monitor

To manage cloud apps, you need visibility into the virtual network connections between your datacenters, remote sites and critical workloads. Network Performance Monitor, now generally available, is a solution in Microsoft Operations Management Suite Insight and Analytics which gives you near-real-time visibility into network performance, latency and availability across hybrid environments. Visualise the hop-by-hop topology of routes using an interactive dashboard to address any issues and create alerts. Watch now

New from Microsoft Translator

Translator recently released Korean as the eleventh neural network (NN)-based translation system. Try and compare the NN-based translations. On 28th March 2017, Bangla (otherwise known as Bengali) will be added to the list of Translator’s Indian languages. Microsoft Translator text and speech APIs are sold on the Azure portal within Cognitive Services. Keep up to date with the latest announcements by following the Microsoft Translator blog.

Take the Microsoft Learning Survey

We are conducting a study on a new learning offering and we are looking to gather opinions of both technical professionals and those that hire technical talent. We expect the total time to take this survey will be about 10 minutes and the valuable information that you provide will be used to develop and shape this new learning programme. Take the survey.

Be empowered

IT Pro Cloud Journey story: Meet Cheryl

Cheryl is a Solutions Architect SharePoint working in technology consulting in the Netherlands. Watch this video to learn how Cheryl’s transition to a cloud technology role saved her time, giving her more opportunity to innovate. To learn more about cloud careers and the paths you can take, visit the Microsoft IT Pro Career Center.

New Azure trial offer

Create a path to career advancement and increase your skills by activating your IT Pro Cloud Essentials benefits. Joining is free. Get hands-on Azure experience with a $25 USD credit for 12 months ($300 USD value), plus extended trials of Office 365 and more. Join now.

CXO Summit streaming live

CXO Summit is sold out, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the action! Learn how to leverage the power of technology and innovation by watching our live stream on 29th March 2017 or on demand after the stream. Register today.

Image of CXO Summit with the caption: "CXO Summit, streaming live - 29th March. Twitter hash-tag #CXOsummit17"

Watch the Microsoft Tech Summit keynote live from Copenhagen

If you cannot join us at Microsoft Tech Summit in person, don’t miss out! On 30th March 2017, at 10:00 AM CEST (UTC+2), keynote speaker Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President of Enterprise Client and Mobility, will take the stage in Copenhagen. Tune in to the live broadcast to find out how the Microsoft Cloud can help you stay competitive in today’s digital transformation landscape. Save the date to watch the live stream or watch it on-demand later.

Join us for Microsoft Data Amp on 19th April 2017

Microsoft Data Amp is a new event that helps you and your teams unlock the potential of data—on your terms. Create intelligent applications using preferred tools and languages, improve productivity and collaboration with stakeholders and problem-solve alongside a diverse and engaged community. Watch live on 19th April 2017, at 8:00 AM Pacific Time (UTC-7). If you cannot make it live, content will be available on demand after the event.

TechTalk: Harnessing the Power of Intelligent Data and App Development

TechTalk gives senior IT, data and development professionals the opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s latest data and app development solutions as well as how to turn data and intelligent apps into valuable strategic assets for their organisations. Specific topics presented by Microsoft engineers and experts include SQL on Linux; big data and analytics apps; software as a service (SaaS) and line of business apps and DevOps. Register for one of the 15 event locations across the United States.

Image of TechTalk with caption: "TechTalk: Harnessing the Power of Intelligent Data and App Development, Presented by Microsoft Engineers and Experts"

Join us for the complimentary Azure Marketplace virtual lab series

If you are interested in solutions like Veeam, DataStax or Cisco but are not sure how to get started, join us for a complimentary virtual lab. The Azure Marketplace virtual lab series will show you how to deploy these apps directly to Azure in 45 minutes or less through a hands-on demo. Learn more and register.

Image with caption: "It is not who you know -- it is what. Azure Marketplace Labs"

Free online course: Managing Infrastructure on Microsoft Azure - Getting Started

If you are an IT pro ready to embrace Azure, this course will help you hit the cloud running with practical skills and knowledge you need to do your job with confidence. Demo-based modules cover foundational concepts, common tools and techniques and best practices that cut through the complexity. They are your road map to creating and managing automatable, scalable and secured infrastructure on Azure. Start the course today.

Cloud Cover: Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code

In this episode, learn about an Azure Tools extension that lets developers create and access Azure resources from within Visual Studio code.

Case study: Analysing Azure inventory data to optimise resources and reduce risk

Microsoft IT ditched conventional processes for managing network resources in the cloud in favor of an Azure asset inventory. The result? Reduced costs and risk and improved security, visibility and compliance. This technical case study details their approach and shares insights which can help you implement a similar solution to optimise your cloud resources. Read the case study on IT Showcase.

Case study: Azure resource inventory helps manage operational efficiency and compliance

An increase in cloud resources brings unique challenges to IT professionals that conventional processes cannot overcome. To rise above them, Microsoft IT created an Azure resource inventory which improves operational efficiency and reduces risk through increased visibility. Read more on IT Showcase.

A Christmas story: Azure delivers failover joy at Microsoft Stores

For Navaneetha Krishnan Thankanadar, a happy 2016 holiday season came down to exactly 23 minutes in the middle of a chilly night in November. Read how using Azure as a failover helped one man’s Microsoft Stores cope with hordes of shoppers over the holiday period. Read more on IT Showcase.

Be entertained

Scene shows a man at his desk, holding a pair of binoculars, turned toward his window where one can see a singular cloud floating in the blue sky. His fellow coworker is shown beside the desk saying, "All I know is the boss said we had to monitor the cloud."

*Comic source: Reprinted with permission.

Be inspired

Swedish firm uses IoT technologies to save energy, water and millions of dollars for property owners

More people than ever are looking for greener solutions. For single-family homeowners, cutting energy use is an easy goal to achieve and measure. For example, a single change such as taking shorter showers will be reflected on next month’s energy bill. But it is a bit more complicated for owners of apartment buildings.

Learn more

CarMax drives online innovation in the cloud

CarMax, the largest used car retailer in the United States, is transforming itself into a digital business to address the needs of today’s connected consumers. With more car shopping happening online and on mobile phones, CarMax re-architected its website using Azure platform services to deliver a faster response to the 16 million people who visit its website each month and to speed the development of new digital services.

Learn more

Be enhanced


Leveraging hybrid cloud infrastructures to improve availability

Azure empowers IT teams to leverage cost-efficient and easy-to-deploy public cloud services, which extend datacenter operations into hybrid cloud environments. By combining the hybrid cloud with modern, virtualised availability solutions, organisations can help reduce costs, increase agility, improve recovery times and achieve data protection, backup and recovery best practices. Download this free, Veeam-sponsored TechTarget white paper.

Trust Episerver to deliver digital content, commerce and marketing using Azure

The Azure Traffic Manager allows Episerver to solve this problem by providing Domain Name System-level traffic control. If Traffic Manager detects that the main datacenter is offline, it directs traffic to an identical fallback service in another datacenter, which automatically scales up to match the current load and scales back down once the main datacenter is back up. Meet your scaling demands and try out Episerver's Azure Traffic Manager today.

Azure Marketplace

Featured: Flexible and cost-effective data management with NetApp ONTAP Cloud for Azure

An Azure cloud version of the NetApp ONTAP software offers superior management of your data in the Azure cloud. Spin up new instances quickly and manage your data in Azure as if it were on-premises. Launch your 30-day trial today and get started by quickly adding a remote disaster recovery destination for your data or enable rapid testing and developing by moving data between locations in a matter of minutes.

Visit Marketplace page

Featured Accelerate legacy app migrations to Azure without application re-architecting

SoftNAS Cloud is a virtual storage appliance that runs on Azure compute and replaces your on-premises NAS, providing enterprise-class security, data protection, and high availability while supporting NFS, SMB/CIFS, iSCSI and AFP. Don’t re-architect your legacy apps when moving them to Azure. It scales from terabytes to petabytes, extending the 5 TB Azure file storage limit. See why Fortune 500 companies to SMBs trust their data with SoftNAS.

Visit Marketplace page

Editor's Note


You may remember the launch of Microsoft Philanthropies last year, a three-year initiative to donate $1 billion USD in cloud computing resources to nonprofit organisations and researchers around the world. There is an update posted with exciting results so far—more than $650 million USD was donated in 2016! If you have or know of a research project that could benefit, applications are due by 15th April 2017, on the Microsoft Azure for Research website.