New Azure innovation advances customer success for the cloud- and AI-powered future
By Jason Zander Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure
7 min read
Organizations around the world are gearing up for a future powered by the intelligent cloud and AI. As these technologies become increasingly central to business strategy and transformation, Microsoft is committed to delivering cutting-edge innovations, programs and expertise that help our customers navigate these technological and business shifts.
At its core, Microsoft is a platform company. That’s why we’re constantly expanding our global reach and adding new innovation to Azure – so all of our customers, everywhere, can succeed. We rely on our vast partner network to help us deliver end-to-end value to organizations of all sizes, all around the world.
I always come back to Microsoft’s mission when preparing for our signature events, and with Microsoft Inspire starting in a few days, I am reminded how powerful it is to work at a company that is rooted in others’ successes. We’ve made it our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It’s a bold ambition and one I take seriously. Together with our partners, we’re working to ensure our customers are successful in the midst of rapid technological innovation.
Today, we’re introducing new offers and technologies that will help organizations navigate their own digital transformation and build the critical foundations for cloud and AI. We’re also showcasing momentum from businesses and partners who are investing in intelligent tech from the cloud to the edge.
Expanding the Azure Data Box offering: Last year we introduced Azure Data Box, a secure, easy to manage appliance to help organizations overcome data transfer barriers that can block productivity and slow innovation. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we’re expanding availability of the Azure Data Box preview to new regions including Europe and the United Kingdom. Organizations can use the Data Box with partner solutions from CommVault, Veeam and others. The Azure Data Box family of products is also expanding to offer our customers even more options to get their data to Azure with the introduction of Azure Data Box Disk. The Data Box Disk is an SSD-disk based option to move data, no matter where it resides, into Azure with ease. It’s especially well-suited for data transfer from multiple remote branches or offices. Customers can order up to five 8TB drives, totaling 40TB, for a recurring or one-time data migration – and can sign up for the preview today.
Azure Global Network: Microsoft has built one of the largest cloud networks in the world which provides customers reliable and fast connectivity to our cloud services. We continue to expand our unprecedented network infrastructure and its intelligent capabilities so customers can adapt their networks to a cloud-based model. Aligning with our mission of providing a rich set of networking capabilities that provide unparalleled security, connectivity and interoperability with partner solutions, today we’re introducing two new services, Azure Virtual WAN (wide-area network) and Azure Firewall both now available in preview.
Azure Virtual WAN is a networking service providing optimized and automated branch to branch connectivity that makes it easy to connect to and through Azure. Virtual WAN allows customers to seamlessly connect their branches to each other and Azure using last mile Internet enabling a distributed connectivity model. It also enables customers to construct a hub and spoke network in Azure to more easily route traffic to virtual appliances such as firewalls and Azure network security services. Azure Virtual WAN provides mechanisms to connect traditional customer routers on-premises as well as an expanding ecosystem of new Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) systems from Microsoft partners.
Azure Firewall is a cloud native network security service that protects your Azure Virtual Network resources. It is a fully stateful firewall as a service with built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability. Customers can centrally create, enforce, and log application and network connectivity policies, spanning Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDNs), IP Addresses, ports and protocols across subscriptions and virtual networks. Azure Firewall policies can be fully integrated with customers’ dev ops model while enabling them to manage security risks and achieve compliance requirements for managing resource access and protection in the cloud.
Next-generation SQL Data Warehouse: We’re continuing to invest in delivering the best platform for big data and analytics. Starting today, Azure SQL Data Warehouse customers will enjoy at least 2x faster query performance from their workloads, cementing it as the fastest data warehouse in the cloud. This significant performance improvement is made real by new instant data movement capabilities that allows for extremely efficient movement between data warehouse compute nodes. At the heart of every distributed database system is the need to align two or more tables that are partitioned on a different key to produce a final or intermediate result set. The accelerated data movement results in faster query performance for customers. Azure SQL Data warehouse not only enables lightning analytics on data, but also ensures that the insights are accessible across an organization. We have enhanced the service to support 128 concurrent queries, so that more users can query the same database and not get blocked behind other requests. Azure SQL Data Warehouse delivers these query performance and query concurrency gains without any price increase and still offering the ability to elastically scale as well as pause and resume workloads across thirty-three regions worldwide.
Power BI expands big data prep, introduces new enterprise capabilities: Power BI is empowering business analysts by expanding self-service prep for big data, and enabling customers to unify modern and enterprise BI on one platform. New preview features beginning to appear in July include the ability to use the familiar Power Query experience to ingest, transform, integrate and enrich big data directly in the Power BI web service. The ingested data can be shared across multiple Power BI models, reports and dashboards. Similarly, Power BI will also support the common data model, which gives organizations the ability to simplify how they enrich their data with other sources from Microsoft and third parties, and accelerate analysis across a broad, unified dataset. In addition, advanced capabilities from SQL Server Analysis Services are coming into Power BI, enabling incremental refresh, higher dataset size limits, and aggregates to allow customers to reach large dataset sizes, while maintaining fast and fluid reporting. Also, SQL Server Reporting Services technology will be part of Power BI, creating a unified, secure, enterprise-wide reporting platform accessible to any user across devices.
Windows Server and SQL Server offer: Going beyond this great product innovation, we’re taking steps to ensure companies can first move to the cloud with flexibility. Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/2008 R2 are some of the most popular versions of Microsoft’s legacy products, and End of Support is coming soon. We’re helping our customers navigate through this with an option to migrate these workloads to Azure and receive extra critical security updates – at no additional charge. Of course, we understand many of our customers have a need to keep some workloads on premises, so they can work with us or our partners to upgrade their on-premises versions as well. We want to ensure our customers stay compliant and secure, and still advance their innovation with cloud. This extended offer offers a huge opportunity for our partners to help customers make the move to Azure or upgrade.
And to make migrating to the cloud even easier for customers, Azure DB Managed Instance will be generally available in early Q4 of this calendar year. Currently in preview, Database Managed Instance is a new flavor of Azure SQL Database that represents fully managed on-prem SQL Server Instance hosted in Azure cloud.
New IoT and edge capabilities and programs to power partner and customer innovation:
This spring, we announced we are investing $5B over the next four years in IoT to enable partner and customer innovation through research and development, new programs and offerings. Today we are continuing the momentum, announcing new capabilities and programs that empower our partners and customers to create connected solutions, from the factory floor to smart buildings and cities. Azure IoT Central, the industry’s first true SaaS IoT solution, is adding support for Power BI and Microsoft Flow – enabling customers to visualize real-time intelligence and create workflows to take action based on these insights. These new capabilities will help customers and partners reduce costly scheduled maintenance by proactively detecting and resolving issues remotely. Azure IoT Central also now supports Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) subscriptions, so CSP partners can easily provision and manage Azure IoT Central applications. We recently announced the general availability of Azure IoT Edge, one of the most enterprise-ready and open edge platforms on the market today. Building on this news, we are introducing two new programs to enrich the Azure IoT Edge ecosystem:
- Azure Certified for IoT – We are expanding the current Certified for IoT program to certify core edge functionalities (in addition to third-party devices), such as security, device management and edge analytics. You can browse existing devices through the Azure IoT device catalog. Hardware partners can learn more about how to certify devices.
- Azure Marketplace – Browse pre-built first and third-party IoT Edge software modules now available through Azure Marketplace. Software partners can share and showcase their edge modules on the marketplace today and monetize offerings through the platform in the future.
New improvement for Azure mobile developers: Today’s developers need to build and distribute their iOS and Android apps quickly and ensure new apps reach their users fast and more frequently. Visual Studio App Center now enables mobile developers to effectively and efficiently distribute apps instantly with the ability to visualize nuanced distribution metrics, and mark the release as mandatory for testers to update to the latest version. We’ve also redesigned the tester onboarding process to make it easier for developers to ship apps to their users.
Azure Stack and partners provide a premier hybrid solution: Azure Stack lets customers deliver Azure services from an organization’s data center – or even in completely disconnected environments, like an oil rig. It’s a truly partner-centric product. The Azure Stack ecosystem includes a vast network of hardware partners for integrated systems or managed service providers that provide a fully managed Azure Stack experience. Since product launch, there’s been consistent innovation and expanded offerings from the Azure Stack team, including new hardware partners and customer edge solutions. Last week, KPN, a telecommunications company in the Netherlands, announced a blockchain solution with their own customers, all powered by Azure Stack.
We’re well into the era of digital transformation, and we’re excited to have a network of trusted partners to help organizations around the world achieve success – whether they are taking the first steps to migrate to Azure, creating new business value with our IoT and edge solutions, or deriving incredible new insights with our AI technologies. The opportunity to deliver impact across industries, both globally and locally, is here, and Microsoft is committed to being your trusted partner in innovation. As always, we love to hear your feedback or questions.