Leaving little doubt that Microsoft is serious about its transformation into an increasingly cloud-centric provider of "devices and services," the company announced several new Windows Azure updates and enhancements aimed at enterprise customers.
Windows Azure vice president Scott Guthrie announced the immediate availability of a "huge set of updates to Windows Azure" in an Oct. 22 blog post. Among them is the official release of Windows Azure Backup Service, which is "backed by an enterprise SLA [service-level agreement], supported by Microsoft Support, and is ready to use for production scenarios," he wrote.
Furthering the software giant's efforts to attract businesses to Azure, Windows Azure Backup provides file and folder backup, recovery and off-site data-protection services for organizations running Windows Server, in addition to System Center Data Protection Manager and Windows Server Essentials, with the downloadable Windows Azure Backup Agent.
Data privacy is assured, Guthrie wrote. The issue was thrust into the spotlight this year when a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, went public with classified information pertaining to the intelligence agency's spying capabilities. Allegations that the U.S. government enjoyed privileged access to popular cloud service providers surfaced, putting tech heavyweights, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, on the defensive.
There were no such concerns with Windows Azure Backup. "All data is encrypted on-site before it is sent to the cloud, and customers retain and manage the encryption key [meaning the data is stored entirely secured and can't be decrypted by anyone but yourself]," wrote Guthrie.
Microsoft also launched a public preview Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager (HRM). As its name suggests, the automated data-protection service enables asynchronous replication and recovery operations for private clouds operating under System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 and R2 at a secondary location, according to the company.
Azure virtual machines get new options that ease management, namely Delete Attached Disks, Availability Set Warnings and SQL AlwaysOn. Windows Azure Active Directory, currently in preview, features improved SAML federation capabilities, multifactor authentication and Microsoft's new password-vaulting system. A default Windows Azure Active Directory is now created for all Azure accounts, and organizations can opt to sync it with on-premise Windows Server Active Directory implementations.
Finally, Microsoft is courting developers with the release of Windows Azure SDK 2.2. Highlights include support for Visual Studio 2013 with integrated Windows Azure Sign-In support, Visual Studio 2013 RTM virtual machine images for MSDN Subscribers and Windows Azure Management Libraries for .NET.
"Visual Studio 2013 and the Windows Azure SDK 2.2 make it easier than ever to get started developing rich cloud applications," wrote Guthrie in a blog post dedicated to the software development kit update. "Along with the Windows Azure Developer Center's growing set of .NET developer resources to guide your development efforts, today's Windows Azure SDK 2.2 release should make your development experience more enjoyable and efficient," he added.