Microsoft Courts Businesses With Enterprise-Grade Azure Cloud Updates

With new SSD-powered cloud storage options, Azure SQL Database upgrades and a slew of enhancements, Microsoft makes a play for big enterprise workloads.

Azure cloud

Microsoft has finally flipped the switch on a series of enterprise-grade updates to its Azure cloud computing platform, which the Redmond, Wash.-based company first teased in a cloud-themed press event on Oct. 20.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, announced Azure Premium Storage, a high-performance cloud storage service backed by speedy solid-state drives, during the event. Today, customers can take the offering for a spin.

Microsoft Azure's director of product marketing, Vibhor Kapoor, announced the Azure Premium Storage public preview in a Dec. 11 company blog post. The service "stores data on the latest technology Solid State Drives (SSDs) and offers up to 32 terabytes of storage per virtual machine," he explained.

"Customers will be able to drive more than 50,000 IOPS off of each virtual machine with sub-millisecond latency for all read operations," said Kapoor. The SSD-based cloud storage foundation will allow businesses "to truly lift-and-shift" demanding enterprise applications, including SQL Server, Exchange Server and SAP Business Suite, he added.

Also new are upgrades to Azure SQL Database that yield dramatic performance gains, said Kapoor. "Internal tests querying over 600 million rows of data show Premium query performance improvements of around 5x in the new preview relative to today's Premium SQL Database and up to 100x when applying In-memory columnstore technology."

Azure Active Directory (AD) premium and basic accounts gain support for the new Application Proxy module, which enables organizations to publish on-premises Web applications on the service. Other new Azure AD features include a password write-back, a question-based security gate for password resets and a preview of Administrative Units, which allows large organizations to manage complex administrative permissions and policy creation setups.

Organizations can also now purchase Azure AD Premium through the Office 365 portal, one of the most-requested features, said Microsoft Azure Active Directory Director Alex Simons in a separate Dec. 11 blog post. "You can now easily add Azure AD Premium services such as self-service password reset and group management, as well as premium reports and application access management capabilities to your directory," he wrote.

Azure AD has been one of Microsoft's cloud success stories, revealed Simons. "We now have over 4 million organizations using Azure AD and as of yesterday, we've just completed our 1 TRILLIONTH authentication."

Azure Media Services Live Channels is now generally available. Live Channels is "the streaming solution used by more than one dozen international broadcasters to seamlessly deliver coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and World Cup," said Kapoor.

Rounding out the long list of updates are a data management gateway for Analytics Platform System that securely links on-premises data with Power BI; Azure Machine Learning and other Microsoft cloud business intelligence solutions; and new Java, PHP and migration tools for the company's cloud-based big data solutions.

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...