In September, Microsoft began delivering Azure cloud services to the United Kingdom from its data centers in London, Durham and Cardiff. Initially, the company offered Office 365 along with select number of services.
Motivated, in part, by growing data privacy and residency concerns among U.K. customers, Microsoft decided to open new Azure data centers in the region in late-2015. Not only can businesses rest assured that their data remained close to home and out of the reach of foreign governments, they can enjoy faster, lower-latency access to the company's cloud and its myriad offerings.
As 2016 rapidly draws to a close, Microsoft announced today that businesses in the U.K. now have regional access to a growing set of Azure-backed services, including the company's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) and data visualization product, Power BI. Also available is Power BI Embedded, the DocumentDB NoSQL database service and Azure Functions, the latter which allows users to run applets, or small pieces of code, in the cloud.
Additionally, area customers can now let their SQL Server workloads spill over to Azure using the Stretch Database service. Finally, U.K. startups and application developers can quickly set up testing environments using Azure DevTest Labs.
"The goal for this service is to solve the problems that IT and development teams have been facing: delays in getting a working environment, time-consuming environment configuration, production fidelity issues, and high maintenance costs," Andres Juarez, principal program manager at the Microsoft Azure Global Ecosystem group, wrote in a Dec. 19 blog post.
"The reusable templates in the DevTest Labs can be used everywhere once created," noted Juarez. "The public APIs, PowerShell cmdlets and VSTS extensions make it super easy to integrate your Dev/Test environments from labs to your release pipeline." Other uses include participating in hackathons or hosting hands-on training sessions.
Also new is the Dec. 19 release of AzCopy 5.1.1, a command-line tool for Windows that allows users to retrieve or copy data to Azure Blob, File and Table storage. The latest version displays file transfer metrics during copy operations and allows Blob and File uploads with the write-only shared access signature (SAS) enabled.
Azure Site Recovery, Microsoft's cloud-based disaster recovery and workload migration solution, now allows customers to exclude disks from their Hyper-V to Azure data replication processes. (The feature was already supported in VMware to Azure scenarios.) By excluding disks, customers can reduce storage and network overhead by skipping data that isn't required for a successful failover to occur and host to impact on a recovery point objective (RPO), explained Nitin Soneji, a program manager at Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise.
Another recent update includes the general availability of the Enterprise Integration Pack feature set within Azure Logic Apps. It allows business-to-business (B2B) applications to communicate and share data over the cloud and enables Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) services.