Microsoft Enhances Azure for Productivity, Security

Microsoft announced a series of improvements to its Azure cloud, a new cloud platform roadmap site and a new version of Power BI.

Microsoft recently announced a slew of enhancements to its Azure cloud platform to improve business productivity and security across SQL Server, Enterprise Mobility and Azure Media Services.

The company launched new updates and features for SQL Server workloads on Azure, including more simplified availability, setup, backup and patching for SQL Server in an Azure virtual machine, which will help make running large enterprise SQL Server workloads in Azure more efficient.

Also, a new update to Azure SQL Database will be generally available in Europe, introducing near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility, greater support for larger databases and expanded Premium performance. General availability will continue across U.S. regions on Feb. 9, 2015, with rollout to most data centers worldwide by March 1, 2015.

In addition, new security features for Azure SQL Database will help customers protect their cloud data and meet corporate and industry compliance policies. And new G-Series virtual machines will deliver major performance gains for customers with large SQL Server OLTP workloads.

“From managing workloads in the cloud with SQL Server, monitoring access with Active Directory, or delivering premium Media Content—Microsoft Azure is innovating to improve your efficiency,” said Vibhor Kapoor, director of product marketing for Microsoft Azure, in a blog post on the enhancements.

Microsoft is introducing a suite of security features coming to the latest version of Azure SQL Database: Row-level Security is now in preview, and soon to come will be Dynamic Data Masking and Transparent Data Encryption, he said.

“Whether you are looking to run your SQL Server workload in an Azure virtual machine or via the SQL Database managed service, there’s no better time than now to move your enterprise workloads to the cloud or build new applications with Microsoft Azure,” Kapoor said.

Enterprises are more concerned than ever about security with the demand for users to access data and services from any device, anywhere, at any time. As such, Microsoft introduced new features in Azure Active Directory Premium including a public preview of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) per application, allowing IT to configure rules that require users to only perform MFA when they access specific security-sensitive applications. There also is a new public preview of Connect Health, helping IT operations staffs monitor and gain insight into health, performance and log-in activity of on-premises Active Directory infrastructure.

Meanwhile, new features in Azure RMS—which secures files and email—include a public preview of Departmental Templates, which enables organizations to protect documents by creating template policies, defining the scope of who can view and use the template. There is also a new Azure RMS Migration Toolkit, which enables Active Directory RMS and Windows RMS customers to migrate to Azure RMS without losing access to their existing content or policies. In addition, Microsoft delivered new Azure RMS Onboarding Controls and updates to RMS SDK and RMS Sharing App for Windows Phone 8.1. The onboarding controls enable users to designate a subset of users who can start to protect content with Azure RMS.

Moreover, Microsoft announced the general availability of Content Protection for Azure Media Services. Piracy is a top concern for premium media content, and with the GA of Content Protection for Azure Media Services, users can use the same license delivery and AES 128-bit encryption key delivery service that securely delivered the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics with a guaranteed 99.9 percent Azure service-level agreement (SLA), Kapoor said.