Microsoft Azure Takes the Spotlight at TechEd

Microsoft shows off its growing enterprise cloud portfolio with several new hybrid cloud options, streamlined cloud app development and in-memory capabilities.

Microsoft Azure, the software's maker cloud computing platform, is casting a big shadow over the TechEd 2014 conference in Houston.

Highlighting Azure's critical role in the company's new "mobile-first, cloud-first" approach to computing, Microsoft introduced several new enhancements and offerings that are meant to attract businesses to its cloud. Among the major announcements was ExpressRoute, a hybrid cloud solution that eases concerns about transferring sensitive enterprise data over the public Internet.

Yesterday, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Windows Server and System Center, announced the general availability of ExpressRoute, a subscription-based offering that establishes secure, private connections to Azure via partner networks and data centers from the likes of AT&T, Equinix and Level 3 Communications. "To connect on-premises technology with the public cloud, we've announced the general availability Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, as well as other enhanced computing and networking capabilities," he said.

In addition to Azure Files, space-saving technology that allows multiple virtual machines to share the same files, and antivirus protection courtesy of Antimalware for Azure, the company announced the availability of several new cloud-based products. In a post on the newly redesigned Azure Blog, Vibhor Kapoor, director of product marketing for Microsoft Azure, listed some of the new features that customers can take for a spin.

Arguing that hybrid clouds "require robust network connections—in-region, cross-region, and across multiple datacenter environments," Kapoor introduced the new multiple site-to-site VPN connection capabilities in Azure Virtual Network. "With new VNET-to-VNET connectivity, multiple virtual networks can be directly and securely linked to one another—enabling great disaster recovery solution, especially when combined with the Always On feature of SQL Server."

The Azure Traffic Manager service extends high availability to hybrid cloud apps by encompassing both Azure and external endpoints. The new IP Reservation options allow administrators to "reserve public IP addresses and use them as virtual IP addresses—ideal for applications that need static public IP addresses or when you need to swap reserved IP addresses to update your applications," said Kapoor.

Microsoft has also kicked off its Azure Import/Export service. A "sneakernet" approach to cloud seeding and data offloading, the service allows customers to ship terabytes of encrypted data on hard drives to the company's data centers, avoiding otherwise time-consuming and bandwidth-hogging data transfers over the Internet.

Developers can build hybrid apps faster with the BizTalk Hybrid Connections preview. "This new Azure service enables you to more securely, quickly, and easily integrate Azure cloud solutions with on-premises TCP or HTTP resources without custom coding," stated Kapoor.

The company's distributed, in-memory caching solution, appropriately named Azure Cache, has also been made generally available. Finally, the company announced a preview of Azure Redis Cache, a secure, Microsoft-managed cloud implementation of the popular open-source data caching platform.

Kapoor hinted that these new capabilities are just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft's goal, he said, "is to help customers remove barriers for adoption of cloud, whether they want to leverage on premise investments or want to build cloud first applications."

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...