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Organizations including ASOS, Keiser University, and Manulife trust and build services on Azure to run their business-critical workloads and support their customers across the world. It’s customers such as these that fuel our desire to innovate. While this desire is ever-present, given the impact of the pandemic in recent months, organizations now more than ever are looking to adopt Microsoft Azure more rapidly to enable remote work, optimize costs, increase efficiency, and innovate.

Today we’re announcing several new Azure infrastructure capabilities that unlock cost savings, increase efficiency, and extend innovation anywhere—directly addressing the challenges we have heard from customers like yourself.

Enable remote work and business continuity

Azure has more than 60 regions worldwide, enabling customers to connect their employees, customers, and partners. Organizations can easily connect their data centers and branch offices to the Azure network, taking advantage of one of the fastest, most reliable, and secure networks in the world. Recently, we’ve seen an increased adoption of Azure networking services, such as Azure VPN Gateway and Azure Firewall, which are helping customers quickly connect to their resources securely. Customers are also taking advantage of Azure Site Recovery and Azure Backup, offering unlimited scale, to recover their business services in the case of an outage, and to safeguard the recovery of their data in the event of accidental deletion, corruption, or ransomware.

There has also seen a surge in remote work powered by Windows Virtual Desktop. Windows Virtual Desktop delivers a secure and always up to date experience on Azure and provides the only multi-session Windows 10 desktop in the cloud. Customers can quickly and cost-effectively, deploy virtual desktops within minutes right from the Azure portal.

In less than two weeks, Keiser University completely transitioned from a traditional brick-and-mortar school to 100 percent online, by enabling remote work with Windows Virtual Desktop. As Keiser shifted its infrastructure to the cloud, their IT department was also able to achieve tighter security policies, accelerate performance, and lower costs.

Today, we’re highlighting some of the new features we’re making to enhance remote work and business continuity:

  • Preview of the Cisco SD-WAN native support within the Azure Virtual WAN hubs. This will enable customers to take advantage of SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) to improve performance while retaining existing investments and skills.
  • Preview of the global load balancer feature for Azure Load Balancer. Customers can now use this feature for latency-based traffic distribution across regional deployments or use it to improve application uptime with regional redundancy.
  • Coming soon in preview, new capabilities for Windows Virtual Desktop. Support of Microsoft Endpoint Manager for Windows 10 multi-session will enable a familiar method for securing and managing virtual desktops, the same ways as physical devices. Azure Monitor integration will provide customers with a workbook that captures all the relevant monitoring telemetry and rich visualizations to identify and troubleshooting issues quickly. The MSIX app attach portal integration with Windows Virtual Desktop will enable the ability to add application layers from the Azure portal—with just a few clicks.
  • Preview of Backup Center to enable customers with the capability to monitor, operate, govern, and optimize data protection at scale, with a consistent management in the Azure portal. Backup Center is also an action center from where you can trigger backup related activities, such as configuring backup, restore, creation of policies or vaults—all from a single place.
  • Preview of backup support for Azure PostgreSQL through Azure Backup to enable long-term retention for Azure PostgreSQL.
  • Preview of cross-region-restore capabilities for SQL and SAP HANA backups through Azure Backup to enable customers to restore backup data from a secondary region at any given time.

Migrate to Azure to save money and achieve cloud scale and performance

Customers are increasingly choosing Azure as the trusted destination for their most demanding Windows Server, SQL Server, and Linux applications and taking advantage of great offers that help customers save money. Our comprehensive infrastructure delivers choice and flexibility and an increase in scalability with great performance as your Azure footprint grows, making Azure the cloud to run business-critical applications. Manulife chose Azure as one of its cloud platforms, migrating and modernizing its business-critical applications to improve agility, scalability, risk management, and cost-efficiency and to accelerate the support of new business models.

This week, we’re also announcing new capabilities that make Azure a great cloud to run Windows Server and Linux workloads including:

  • Preview of Azure Automanage for Windows Server to help customers significantly reduce day-to-day management tasks with automated operations across the entire lifecycle of Windows Server virtual machines (VMs) on Azure. IT admins can now manage their VMs with point-and-click simplicity, individually or at scale.
  • Preview of the Windows Admin Center in Azure to enable customers to perform deep Windows Server OS management on their Azure Virtual Machines right from Azure.
  • Preview of Azure Hybrid Benefit with improved flexibility and enhanced user experience for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server customers migrating to Azure. Customers can convert their pay-as-you-go instances to bring their own subscription without any downtime and maintain business continuity.
  • General availability of Flatcar Container Linux, compatible with CoreOS (which reached its end-of-life on May 26, 2020). Flatcar is an immutable Linux distribution making Flatcar Container Linux a viable and straightforward migration choice for container workloads running on Azure.
  • Preview of the Azure Image Builder to streamline cloud native image building and customization process without the need of external IP addresses, providing customers better protection against vulnerabilities. This will be generally available by the end of this year.

In addition to the investments we’re making to support your Windows and Linux workloads, customers can migrate their business-critical applications to Azure with confidence by taking advantage of an expanded compute and storage portfolio, which offers improved performance and flexibility and support for your highly scalable apps:

  • General availability of Azure VMware Solution. Seamlessly extend or completely migrate existing on-premises VMware applications to Azure without the cost, effort, or risk of re-architecting the application. With Azure VMware Solution, customers experience the speed and agility of the cloud, while using existing VMware skills and tools, making Azure your one-stop shop to achieve cost savings and accelerate cloud adoption.
  • Preview of the ability to schedule Dedicated Host and isolated VM maintenance operations, giving customers more control over platform updates. Customers can also automate guest OS image updates on Virtual Machine Scale Sets, reducing manual upkeep.
  • Preview of two new Azure Dedicated Hosts features to simplify VM deployment at scale. When deploying Azure Virtual Machines in Dedicated Hosts, customers can enable the platform to select the host group to which the VM will be deployed. Customers can also use Virtual Machine Scale Sets in conjunction with Dedicated Hosts to enable use of scale sets across multiple dedicated hosts within a dedicated hosts group.
  • Preview of automatic VM guest patching to automate rollout of security patches and simplify application management, including enhanced monitoring capabilities.
  • Preview of the price history and associated eviction rates of Azure Spot Virtual Machines in the Azure portal to provide increased Azure costs transparency and predictability.
  • General availability of new Azure Virtual Machines. The Intel 2nd generation Intel Xeon Platinum processors offer up to 20 percent greater CPU performance and better overall price-per-core performance compared to the prior generation. The new AMD EPYC™-based Dav4 and Eav4 Azure Virtual Machine series provides increased scalability (up to 96vCPUs) in 18 regions.
  • Preview of the NC T4 series VM and the ND A100 Series to enable AI computing. These VMs offer powerful and massively scalable AI VMs. With these new VM sizes and capabilities, customer can benefit from a greater range in underlying processor technologies.
  • General availability of Azure Private Link integration with disks to enhance the security of disk storage. This provides secure imports and exports of data over a private virtual network.
  • General availability of support for 512E format on Ultra Disks to enable migration of on-premises legacy applications to Azure with Ultra Disks, giving customers the ability to benefit from best-in-class performance of Ultra Disks.
  • Preview of disk performance tiers to offer the flexibility to increase disk performance independent of size, reducing costs.

In addition to new Azure services and updates, we’re investing in tools and programs to help our customers move to Azure. Azure Migrate, a central hub of tools to migrate your apps to Azure—can now perform a comprehensive discovery and assessment of their server estate, including agentless software inventory and dependency mapping. Once that is complete, customers can migrate workloads at scale, with added support now for Azure Availability Zone and Unified Extensible Firmware Interface migrations.

We’re also announcing new additions to the Azure Migration Program and FastTrack for Azure. Both the Azure Migration Program and FastTrack for Azure now support Windows Virtual Desktop to help customers accelerate their virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments while enabling a secure, remote desktop experience from anywhere. In addition, the Azure Migration Program supports ASP.NET web app migration scenarios to help customers scale their websites and reduce operational burden with innovative, fully managed services like Azure App Service and Azure SQL.

Bring innovation anywhere to your hybrid and multi-cloud environments

More customers are adopting a hybrid cloud approach to operate across distributed IT environments, benefit from on-premises investments, and take advantage of edge computing. These hybrid cloud capabilities must evolve to enable innovation anywhere, while providing seamless management and ensuring uncompromised security. With new capabilities now generally available, Azure Arc offers a consistent approach to managing Windows Servers, Linux Servers, and Kubernetes clusters on any infrastructure across on-premises, multi-cloud, and edge. Customers can also use the latest in the Azure Stack portfolio to modernize their data centers, remote offices, and edge locations. Learn more about updates to our Azure hybrid capabilities.

Secure apps and networks from increased cyberattacks

As the need to support remote work grows, customers must ensure security across their entire organization to reduce potential threats regardless of where IT resources sit. Microsoft invests $1 billion annually and has over 3,500 global security experts to monitor and secure the environment of Azure resources. We provide built-in security controls across layers to protect your apps and data as it moves around both inside and outside of your organization and simplify security management with a unified multi-cloud view into your security estate. We also keep your organization up to date on the security state of your workloads with AI-enabled intelligent insights and recommendations on how to further strength your assets or respond to threats.

Yesterday, we announced significant innovation in our Azure security suite with a preview of behavioral intelligence and third-party threat intelligence sources to Azure Sentinel, the first cloud native SIEM in the market. We also announced the preview of Azure Defender, a new service within Azure Security Center, providing customers with more protection against threats entering the environment. Learn more about our new Azure security innovations.

These are just a few infrastructure innovations highlighted at Microsoft Ignite this week. Whether you’re attending the event live or accessing the recorded content, make sure to check out all of our Azure Infrastructure sessions and learn more about optimizing costs and maximizing value in our upcoming webinar miniseries. You can also take advantage of self-paced technical learning paths at Microsoft Learn.

We look forward to seeing you integrate these latest capabilities in your cloud adoption journey.

Azure. Invent with purpose.

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