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Building the Intelligent Cloud: Announcing New Azure Innovations to Transform Business

Today at AzureCon, we will unveil a series of new innovations to help our customers transform their businesses at cloud speed and scale, across app development, data and IoT, and infrastructure.

In my conversations with customers, it’s clear that three significant trends have emerged across organizations of all types and sizes when it comes to maximizing business value – and gaining competitive advantage – in the cloud. First, applications are spurring organizations to achieve faster time to value. Meanwhile, higher-level services, like machine learning, predictive analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), are driving faster time to innovation—helping customers not just reinvent business processes, but reimagine what is possible. But this doesn’t mean that cloud infrastructure has taken a backseat. Infrastructure underpinning the cloud remains critical, providing reliability and peace of mind to customers while helping them scale up faster to improve their bottom line.

Today at AzureCon, we will unveil a series of new innovations to help our customers – from Alaska Airlines, NASCAR, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jet.com, Rockwell Automation and more – transform their businesses at cloud speed and scale, across app development, data and IoT, and infrastructure.

Building and Managing Modern Applications

Apps are the backbone of business transformation today. When developers can build on a modern app platform with a rich portfolio of cloud services, tapping into a single code-base for all devices – the results are inspiring. Azure customers like Alaska Airlines are one example. The award-winning company uses Azure App Service, Azure SQL DB, API Management, Visual Studio Online, Xamarin and Power BI to deliver its Hopper App, which lets employees find and reserve open seats on any flight, as well as check live gate and weather information. When employees provide feedback on the App, new features based on that feedback can be released easily and quickly using Visual Studio Online, complemented by services such as GitHub. 

Container technologies are changing the way apps are built, deployed and run. In particular Docker has grabbed the attention of the industry by simplifying the building and packaging of container apps so they can run anywhere, while bringing added benefits of agility and density. As containers increasingly make their way into production, attention is turning to managing them. Developers and IT administrators want a solution that helps them deploy and manage multi-container applications while scaling them and making them resilient.

We are excited to announce the new Azure Container Service, an open source container scheduling and orchestration service which builds on our partnerships with both Docker and Mesosphere, as well as our contributions to open source projects in this space. This service leverages both Docker and Apache Mesos in order to deliver an open source environment for running container workloads. Given our work with Docker to date, it is unlikely to surprise anyone that we include this important technology, but why Mesos? After speaking with many enterprise customers who have turned to Mesos to address challenges with container-based applications, it was clear that Mesos should be our first supported orchestrator. Mesos already powers leading brands like Twitter, all of Apple’s Siri, large parts of Airbnb, Netflix and OpenTable.

We’ve built the Azure Container Service in close collaboration with Mesosphere, using open source components from their DCOS offering including DCOS Marathon (for launching and scaling container based applications) and Chronos (for distributed cron and batch workloads). Additionally, many of our customers are excited to deploy Docker containers using Docker Swarm and Docker Compose. In continuing our partnership with Docker, the Azure Container Service will also have the ability to deploy, scale and orchestrate Swarm based solutions as well. Azure Container Service will be available in preview before the end of the calendar year.

Big Data and the Internet of Things

The intelligent cloud is powered by data – and innovation is limitless when that data can be shared, gleaned for insights across connected assets, devices and systems. That is why the Internet of Things has captured the world’s imagination, with customers like Rockwell and ThyssenKrupp Elevators connecting data and devices to solve business problems and improve their operations. Today, we are announcing that the Azure IoT Suite is available to purchase. Built on our proven cloud platform, the suite integrates with a company's existing processes, devices and systems to quickly and easily build and scale IoT projects. It is purpose-built to address common business needs for IoT, such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance. When a business is able to connect the assets it already owns and then harness the power of the data these assets are already generating, they realize operational efficiencies, create innovation and can transform their business.

In addition, Microsoft also announced the new Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT program, an ecosystem of partners whose offerings have been tested and certified to help businesses with their IoT device and platform needs. Initial partners include Beaglebone, Freescale, Intel, Raspberry Pi, Resin.io, Seeed and Texas Instruments.  

In case you missed it, yesterday we also announced that the Cortana Analytics Suite — a fully managed big data and advanced analytics suite that enables you to transform your data into intelligent action – is available for purchase. We also announced the expanded vision for Azure Data Lake, which includes a store, analytics service and our existing managed Hadoop-as-a-service offer, Azure HDInsight. In addition, HDInsight on Linux is now generally available. With Visual Studio integration, we simplify authoring, debugging, and optimization of big data code. We’re also introducing U-SQL, a new language that unifies the benefits of SQL with the expressive power of user code. Working with big data no longer requires your entire team to learn new skills before they become productive.

Intelligent Infrastructure: Trust at Hyper-Scale 

None of this would be possible in the cloud without trusted, reliable cloud infrastructure at the foundation. And for our customers around the world, it’s critical we provide infrastructure that supports the growth and scale of their business needs – no matter how high the peaks are, and no matter where in the world they are. This is the true value of the hyper-scale cloud. With 24 regions around the world – more than AWS and Google combined – no one is delivering hyper-scale like Microsoft Azure.

Taking this commitment further, just hours ago we announced general availability of three regions — Central India in Pune South India in Chennai and West India in Mumbai– making Microsoft the first hyper-scale public cloud provider in India. The new region will provide local customers with data residency and replication in multiple regions for backup and recovery, and the option of a private connection to the cloud. Azure is immediately available in these regions, with Office 365 services coming in October, and Dynamics CRM to follow in the first half of 2016. 

A trusted infrastructure also means providing customers with control, security and transparency across their cloud infrastructure and assets. This is more important than ever with cybersecurity attacks continuing to make headlines across the globe. That’s why today we are excited to announce the new Azure Security Center – an integrated security solution that gives customers end to end visibility and control of the security of their Azure resources, helping them to stay ahead of threats as they evolve.

This first-of-its-kind security service also integrates with partner solutions from companies such as Barracuda, Checkpoint, Cisco, CloudFlare, F5 Networks, Fortinet, Imperva, Incapsula, and Trend Micro. In addition to enabling integrated security, monitoring and policy management, Azure Security Center also provides invaluable recommendations. By analyzing information gathered from customers’ deployments and comparing with global threat intelligence aggregated by Microsoft, the service introduces a unique ability in the industry to detect threats while taking the guesswork out of cloud security. Azure Security Center will be broadly available for Azure customers by the end of the year.

“Azure Security Center provides customers an easy way to find, deploy, and manage critical security services such as the Cisco ASA Firewall. With Cisco ASAv’s superior protection, high performance, and flexible consumption models, our mutual customers can embrace the cloud with confidence and without compromising security,” said Dov Yoran, senior director of Strategy and Business Development for Cisco’s Security Business Group.

Finally, to further boost the performance of our world-class cloud infrastructure, we today announced the N-series, a new family of Azure Virtual Machines with GPU capabilities. GPUs are ideal for compute and graphics-intensive workloads, helping customers to fuel innovation through scenarios like remote visualization, high performance computing and analytics. Available in preview within the next few months, the N-series will feature the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform as well as NVIDIA GRID 2.0 technology, providing the highest-end graphics support available in the cloud today.

Easy and Affordable Cloud Innovation

In addition to ensuring our customers can innovate simply at cloud speed, we also remain committed to helping them manage their cloud investments easily and affordably, with new troubleshooting tools, support resources and pricing options. Today Microsoft announced the Azure Compute Pre-Purchase Plan, a new pricing program designed for customers with steady state, predictable workloads on Azure. With this new offer, customers who pre-purchase Azure compute for one year can realize cost savings of up to 63 percent. This plan will be available globally starting December 1.

Continuous Innovation on Azure

Continuing our leadership in providing world-class app development, data and infrastructure offerings, today at AzureCon we will also announce:

  • App Service Environment is now generally available with a fully backed SLA. App Service Environment provides a fully isolated and dedicated environment for securely running all of your apps in addition to enabling more scaling options for Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps and Logic Apps.

  • A strategic partnership with Akamai which will enable integration of Akamai’s industry-leading CDN capabilities into Azure. This dramatically expands Azure CDN’s capabilities, scale and geographic reach. Public sector customers will have convenient access as both platforms have achieved the FedRAMP JAB’s highest certification.

  • The general availability of Azure Mobile Engagement, which enables user segmentation, app user analytics, and contextually-aware smart push notifications and in-app messaging across devices to maximize app usage, retention and monetization.

  • The general availability of Live Encoding for Azure Media Services. Live Encoding enables the delivery of high quality video, under a variety of network conditions, to every device for the live streaming of events. Live Encoding is the same technology that powered the digital coverage of some of the largest events on the planet such as Super Bowl XLIX and 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Azure SQL Data Warehouse, including recently released Power BI integration, is now broadly available for public preview. Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a new, first-of-its-kind elastic data warehouse in the cloud. It’s the first enterprise-class cloud data warehouse that can dynamically grow, shrink and pause compute in seconds independent of storage, enabling you to pay for the query performance you need, when you need it.

  • The general availability of ExpressRoute for O365 and Skype for Business, as well as the ability to connect to Microsoft Azure’s Government Cloud via ExpressRoute. With ExpressRoute for Office 365, customers can access Office 365

  • New pricing plans for ExpressRoute. Effective Oct 1st 2015, customers will have two different data plans for their ExpressRoute connections. Relative to the prior model where pricing plans were tied to the service provider, these plans provide more flexibility in choosing the right plan based on your data usage. For more details, refer here.
  • The general availability of DV2, our next generation of D-series Virtual Machine instances. DV2 instances can be used as Virtual Machines or Cloud Services. DV2 instances are based on a customized 2.4 GHz Intel Xeon® E5 v3 (Haswell) processors, and with Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 can go to 3.2 GHz, making DV2 up to 35% faster than the current D-series instances. Dv2-series and D-series are ideal for enterprise-grade applications that demand faster CPUs, better local disk performance, or higher memories.

  • Price reductions on A8-A11 Instances. As part of our commitment to save you costs whenever we can, we’re reducing prices of A8, A9, A10 and A11 instances by as much as 60%. These instances carry the powerful Intel Xeon E5 processors and are suitable for compute intensive workloads like high-performance clusters, modeling and simulations, video encoding, and other compute or network intensive scenarios. The new prices will be effective October 1st, 2015. Please visit the Virtual machines pricing page for pricing details.
  • The general availability of Azure File Storage. Azure File Storage is a highly available and geo-replicated managed file share at low cost. Via the widely-used SMB 3.0 protocol, it enables customers to have persistent and secure connections with applications both on-premises and in the cloud.

  • The general availability of Azure Backup of application workloads. Included as part of Microsoft Operations Management Suite, Azure Backup now supports direct backup of SQL Server, SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics

  • Upcoming availability of Azure Resource Health, a new service that exposes the health of each of Azure resources such as Virtual Machines, websites and SQL Databases to help customers quickly identify the root cause of a problem. Based on the root cause, it provides actionable guidance and tooling to solve issues, including the option to submit a support ticket. Azure Resource health will be available for public preview in October.
  • Announcement of the Financial Services Compliance Program. We know the financial industry has more regulatory oversight than most other industries. To make it easier for our customers to adopt Azure, we’re excited to offer a new compliance program aligned to global financial regulatory oversight and risk management requirements. As part of the program, customers will get access to audit report evidence as well as platform penetration test results.

These announcements all further our ambition to deliver the industry's most intelligent cloud – a cloud which has the power not just to transform businesses, but to transform lives. By delivering unique and differentiated offerings across app development, data, IoT and cloud infrastructure, we aim to empower our customers to make cloud-born innovation a simple and affordable reality, regardless of the tools, languages or platforms they use. Check out the keynotes from today's AzureCon and the sessions to learn more about how the intelligent cloud can transform your business to help you achieve more.