Microsoft Azure Cloud Updates: Bigger, Safer, Docker-Friendly

The company rings in the new year with larger, high-performance VMs, a new cryptographic key management service and a shortcut to getting started with Docker.

Azure Cloud update

As promised back in October as part of an expansion of the Microsoft's hyperscale cloud capabilities, the company has made its new G-Series virtual machines (VM) for Azure generally available.

G-Series is the new king of Azure VMs, according to Corey Sanders, director of program management for Microsoft Azure. "G-series sizes provide the most memory, the highest processing power and the largest amount of local SSD [solid-state drive] of any virtual machine size currently available in the public cloud," he said in a Jan. 8 Azure Blog post.

Backed by Intel's newest server processors and speedy, flash-based storage, Microsoft has upgraded its cloud-computing capabilities to make room for resource-intensive enterprise applications.

"G-series offers up to 32 vCPUs [virtual CPUs] using the latest Intel Xeon processor E5 v3 family, 448GB of memory and 6.59TB of local solid-state drive (SSD) space," Sanders said. "This large amount of memory will enable much faster deployments of mission-critical applications such as large relational database servers like SQL Server and MySQL and large NoSQL and big data solutions like MongoDB, Cassandra, Cloudera, xTremeData and DataStax."

On the storage front, G-Series VMs support up to 64 attached disks for a total of up to 64TB of storage. All told, five G-Series sizes are available, ranging from G1 plan with two cores, 28GB RAM and 412GB of storage capacity to the top-of-the-line G5 plan described above. Currently, G-Series VMs are only available out of the company's Western U.S. Azure data centers.

To help organizations better manage their cloud data security, Microsoft unveiled a public preview of its new Azure Key Vault. A scalable, cloud-based alternative to on-premise hardware security module (HSM) appliances, Azure Key Vault simplifies key management and speeds up applications by eliminating the need for cryptographic operations to make the trip from an HSM to the cloud and back, Sanders said.

"Azure Key Vault helps customers safeguard and control keys and secrets using HSMs in the cloud, with ease and at cloud-scale. Key Vault can be configured in minutes, without the need to deploy, wait for or manage an HSM and has a single programming model across HSM-protected and software-protected keys," he stated.

The Key Vault Preview is available in the following Azure regions: Eastern United States, North Central United States, Northern Europe, Western Europe, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Expanded availability is scheduled for the "coming months."

Finally, the company announced Azure Marketplace's first Docker image, Docker on Ubuntu Server by Canonical and Microsoft Open Tech. In terms of business computing, Docker is taking the cloud world by storm due, in large part, to its lightweight, containerized approach to virtualized applications that allows organizations to skip the one OS per VM requirement.

"Users can now easily select a Docker gallery item and provision an Azure Ubuntu VM with the latest Docker engine immediately ready to use," said Sanders. Previously, the process required users to install the Docker extension to a running Linux VM, he explained.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...