• 9 min read

Cloud innovations empowering IT for business transformation

This week at Ignite, we’re unveiling many new Azure capabilities and you’ll see a common meme across these – enabling IT with cloud infrastructure, security capabilities, holistic management, and world-class support for open source.

Leading the Azure engineering organization over the past several years has been an incredible experience, and one that has taught me a great deal. My discussions with enterprise customers has given me an intimate understanding of the challenges IT teams (including our own) are facing today – How do I innovate with greater agility and faster time to market? How do I modernize our app portfolio? How do I maintain and optimize what I have? How do I manage and secure it all? Amidst all these challenges, however, lies a unique opportunity to align IT with business strategy. And the cloud is the enabling technology that makes this more possible than ever.

Azure is the cloud platform designed for enterprises with the fundamental tenets of global, trusted and hybrid. With Azure infrastructure spanning 34 global regions, we provide twice the choice of regions than AWS to run your applications, as well as offering unique data sovereignty capabilities. With 47 compliance certifications and attestations, Azure is the most compliant hyper scale cloud on the planet. Our hybrid IT depth means ensuring your on-premises investments work consistently with Azure, because hybrid IT means true consistency across your entire environment, not just connectivity between your datacenter and the cloud. But what’s exciting and humbling is to see the tremendous value customers are getting by betting on Azure. From Fortune 500 organizations like Wal-Mart, BMW and EcoLab to startups like Soluto and Linukury, our customers save on costs, are more agile and can transform their businesses.

This week at Ignite, we’re unveiling many new Azure capabilities and you’ll see a common meme across these – enabling IT with cloud infrastructure, security capabilities, holistic management, and world-class support for open source.

Infrastructure for IT innovation

In Azure’s global datacenters lies incredible compute capacity that you can tap into. We want to ensure you can run every workload – meaning all the performance and scale you need, regardless of what you are running. To that end, we are making several announcements today.

New compute offerings – storage optimized, fastest CPU, SAP HANA

We are introducing new Virtual Machine and compute offerings to address your unique application needs – the L-series, H-series and general availability of special-purpose large instances for SAP HANA. This expands upon the recently released N-series, available in preview and offering best-in-class GPU compute VMs.

  • L-Series – L-series are storage-optimized VMs specially designed for applications requiring low latency, high throughput, large local disk storage such as NoSQL databases (e.g. Cassandra, MongoDB, Cloudera and Redis), and data warehousing. Built on Intel Haswell processors (Intel® Xeon® processor E5 v3), L-series supports up to 6 TB of local SSD and offers unmatched storage performance. We will be rolling out L-series in the coming weeks.
  • H-series – Aligned with our commitment to deliver the best performing technology to market, H-series sports the fastest CPUs in public cloud as well as RDMA with InfiniBand, so you can run high performance computing (HPC) applications like computational fluid dynamics, automotive crash testing, genome and molecular research. H-Series VMs provides customers the ability to easily get on-demand HPC infrastructure and use it for faster insight.
  • Large Instances for SAP HANA – Continuing our commitment to be able to run the largest enterprise applications, I am delighted to announce the general availability of large instances specifically designed for SAP HANA workloads. These purpose-built hardware configurations can run the largest SAP HANA workloads in the public cloud. They accommodate SAP HANA OLTP scenarios for up to 3 TB, and for large scale-out OLAP deployments for up to 32 TB of RAM.
  • N-series – Earlier in August, we announced the preview release of our new GPU-powered N-series VM sizes. With both a visualization SKU and a compute-focused SKU, these VM sizes offer unparalleled performance for desktop graphical modeling/rendering and deep learning computational models.

More openness options

Azure is an open platform, deeply committed to leading open source support. Today, nearly one in three VMs deployed on Azure run Linux. The strong momentum for Linux and open source on Azure is driven by our ongoing innovation and demonstrated commitment. Customers like Johnson Controls and KPMG are using Azure for open source workloads and building modern application architectures, including containers and big data solutions. Two weeks ago, we released a preview of our microservices platform, Service Fabric on Linux, for creating highly scalable, cloud-native applications. Customers can now also provision Service Fabric clusters in Azure using Linux as the host OS and deploy Java applications in these clusters.

This week, we are expanding our open source support with further regional availability of Linux and open source solutions, including on-demand Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) in Azure Government. We are also adding RHEL support for SAP applications (NetWeaver and HANA). We are committed to great experiences for developers and system admins and to meet customers where they are, from platform stacks to management tools.

New networking capabilities

Azure provides a rich set of networking features so you have the most performant network and diverse set of options for your applications. To that end, we are introducing several new capabilities today.

  • IPv6 support – With the explosive growth of devices powered by Internet of Things (IoT), compliance regulations and the need for future proofing applications, the need for IPv6 has become more real than ever before. Today, we’re introducing support for IPv6 for applications within virtual machines on Azure.
  • Azure DNS – We introduced Azure DNS to provide you the speed, reliability, and convenience of having your DNS services hosted close to your applications and cloud infrastructure. We are excited to make this networking service generally available today.
  • Accelerated Networking – As applications demand faster performance than ever before, we are previewing the ability for VMs to tap into incredible network performance (up to 25 Gbps). Powered by FPGAs, the network throughput and low latency offered by this capability is unparalleled in the public cloud today.
  • Web Application Firewall (WAF) – With the addition of WAF capabilities to the Application Gateway service, we’re significantly enhancing your ability to manage application security.
  • New Virtual Network capabilities like peering, active-active VPN gateways and a new ultra-performance gateway for ExpressRoute, all significantly improve the way in which you define network topologies and connect different network environments in powerful ways.

Hybrid cloud enablement

Over 80% of enterprises today have a hybrid cloud strategy – this is the real world for organizations. With decades of experience partnering closely with enterprises, we understand the importance of true hybrid that provides a consistent and comprehensive approach for your entire IT estate. Today, we announced the next step in delivering the power of Azure in your datacenter with the release of Azure Stack Technical Preview 2, bringing more proven cloud innovation such as the Azure Marketplace and security capabilities like Key Vault directly to your datacenter.

We are also bringing cloud-first innovation to your on-premises datacenters and other clouds with General Availability of Service Fabric for Windows Server. With this release, we enable microservice-based Service Fabric applications to have portability and flexibility. This standalone offering provides you a runtime that can be installed on Windows Server on-premises or even in other clouds.

Many of our customers turn to Azure for backup and disaster recovery across the enterprise. In addition to Azure integration with offerings from our rich storage partner ecosystem, we now have the Azure StorSimple Virtual Array for remote and branch offices and the existing Azure StorSimple 8000 series hybrid cloud storage offerings for the datacenter. We are also providing data transformation services that make data backed up using StorSimple available in native Azure formats like blobs and disks. This makes it easy for customers to address business needs with services such as Media Services, Search, Analytics and even custom applications.

New Azure SQL database enhancement

We are announcing general availability of Temporal Tables feature of Azure SQL Database. Temporal Tables are designed to improve your productivity when you develop applications. It lets you focus data analysis on a specific point in time and use a declarative cleanup policy to control retention of historical data. It also enables you to track the full history of data changes in Azure SQL DB, without custom coding.

Securing infrastructure

Security is a primary adoption concern for customers embracing the cloud. We know that staying ahead of sophisticated and ever-evolving cyber threats is a challenging and an ongoing process. We can firmly say that trust and security are cornerstones of the Azure platform. We have the largest compliance portfolio and with it, organizations in even highly regulated industries like Financial Services can use Azure; nearly 85 percent of the world’s largest banks are Azure customers. We are investing heavily in building a cloud that you can trust and today we are announcing key enhancements that further bolster the security of our platform.

Compliance portfolio expansion

We are further strengthening our robust compliance portfolio with these new additions.

  • ISO 22301 Certification – Azure is the only hyper scale cloud service provider to receive a formal certification for business continuity management, demonstrating comprehensive internal guidelines for the prevention, response, and recovery from disruptive incidents.
  • EU-US Privacy Shield Framework – Microsoft is also the first cloud vendor to get certified under the new EU-US Privacy Shield Framework for the protection of personal data of EU citizens and is the latest example of the company’s commitment to privacy.
  • IT-Grundschutz Workbook – Azure has also made available a new security and compliance workbook, IT-Grundschutz, for Azure for who are subject to the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) information protection standards.

Azure Security Center enhancements

We continue to enhance Azure Security Center, offering unmatched security monitoring and management for your cloud resources, since its general availability earlier this year.

  • Using Security Center, customers benefit from ongoing security research resulting in new analytics released today that are designed to detect insider threats, attempts to persist within a compromised system, and use of compromised systems to mount additional attacks, such as DDoS and Brute Force.
  • Security Incidents, currently available in preview, have been enriched to correlate alerts from different sources, including alerts from connected partner solutions.
  • Threat attribute reports are now built-in to provide valuable information about attackers, which can be used to remediate threats more quickly.
  • Security Center also released support for integrated vulnerability assessment from partners like Qualys, along with security assessment of Web Apps and Storage accounts.

Azure Key Vault support for certificates

To better secure your cloud resources and data, Azure Key Vault now extends support for certificates helping simplify tasks associated with SSL/TLS certificates. This service helps customers enroll and automatically renew certificates from supported 3rd party Certificate Authorities while providing auditing trails within the same environment. Aligning with our approach to work with industry partners, the following Certificate Authorities are supported at GA: Digicert, Globalsign and WoSign.

General Availability of Encryption Services

With the general availability of following encryption services, we help customers protect and safeguard their data and meet their organizational security and compliance requirements.

  • With the availability of Azure Disk Encryption for both Windows and Linux Standard VMs, customers can protect and safeguard their OS disk and data disks at REST using industry standard encryption technology.
  • Two weeks ago, we announced the general availability of Storage service encryption for Azure Blob Storage. For accounts that have encryption enabled, data will be encrypted using Microsoft managed keys using the industry leading Encryption algorithm, 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256).

Management from the cloud

Cloud intelligence and cloud scale, gives you new options when it comes to management. As you take advantage of the agility of Azure, you need to closely monitor and analyze the utilization and performance of your Azure resources. Today, we announced the preview of Azure Monitor, which provides better insights by enabling you to collect performance and utilization data, activity and diagnostics logs, and notifications from your Azure resources. With workloads on-premises, in Azure or spanning both, you need a unified view and the tools to drill down deep when required. Delivered from Azure, Operations Management Suite gives you a comprehensive hybrid cloud management platform. With Azure Monitor and Operations Management Suite Insight & Analytics, all data from your workloads and applications in Azure, on-premises, in AWS, and on VMware is now at your fingertips.

Empowering the IT cloud journey

While we’re committed to continuous innovation to deliver the world leading cloud platform, staying abreast of rapidly changing technologies can be difficult. Microsoft is therefore providing free resources to help IT Professionals through your cloud career journey, from planning your career path to getting started with Azure to hands-on practice with the latest cloud technology.

  • Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials program will help you get started with $300 Azure credits, a free support incident, free Pluralsight courses and certification discounts. Today we are expanding availability of the Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials and IT Pro Career Center programs to 25 languages.
  • Microsoft IT Pro Career Center can help you navigate the skills needed to transition to a cloud role. 
  • Microsoft Tech Community provides a modern digital community where you can ask questions, exchange ideas, and build connections with Microsoft Valued Professionals (MVPs), Microsoft engineers and peers.  Finally, to stay current with the latest Microsoft cloud technologies subscribe to the Microsoft Mechanics YouTube channel for weekly IT focused videos.

I strongly believe that these investments and innovations on Azure are contributing in a significant way to business transformation. I thank you for being a part of Azure’s incredible growth and am very interested in hearing your feedback on the new releases we have on Azure!