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.
Microsoft Enhances Azure for Productivity, Security
Speaking of Azure Media Services, NBC Sports announced it is working with Microsoft Azure Media Services as a technology partner to deliver a multiplatform experience of streaming 11 hours of Super Bowl Sunday coverage, including the big game, across PCs, laptops and tablets through NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Digital’s live streaming product.
“Over the past year, NBC Sports and Azure Media Services have partnered to deliver the successful and record breaking streaming of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games,” said Julianne Carroll, product marketing manager for Azure Media Services, in a blog post. “The scale and performance of our streaming solution allowed for over 100 million viewers around the globe to stream the Olympics and also set some records at the time, with roughly 2.1 million concurrent HD views during the U.S. vs. Canada hockey match.”
In a forward-looking move to help with customer planning, Microsoft announced the launch of the Cloud Platform roadmap site, a new resource that provides a comprehensive view of the improvements and developments across the company’s Cloud Platform business. The site will show what technology is currently in development, coming within the next few months, newly available, and in public preview across a number of products and services.
“The Cloud Platform roadmap spans cloud services like Microsoft Azure, Intune, post on the roadmap.
“With this view, you will be able to understand and plan for what’s coming next,” Numoto said. “In addition, you will be able to easily view newly available products and services, including those in public preview, to help you take full advantage of our expanding portfolio.”
Finally, in another recent move, Microsoft said it is “mainstreaming” business intelligence with a new version of its Power BI product that is now in preview. Power BI can help every company adopt a data culture with easy-to-use, accessible tools and innovative technology that lowers the barrier to entry for all, said James Phillips, general manager of Data Experiences at Microsoft, in a blog post. Microsoft is readying a free version of Power BI to be released later this year.
Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics service for nontechnical business users. It enables users to explore their business data, through interactive visual reports, and enrich it with additional data sources.
Microsoft announced Power BI Designer, a new tool that enables business analysts to connect to, model and visually analyze their data. The company also released a preview of Power BI for iPad, now available for download from the Apple App Store. Later this year, Microsoft will also introduce client versions of Power BI versions iPhone, Android and Windows universal apps.
“When we reach general availability we will introduce a free offer, available as Power BI,” Phillips said. “We’ll also introduce Power BI Pro, available at a low monthly price, with additional data capacity and features for the enterprise. In anticipation of this move, on February 1 we are lowering the price of our in-market Power BI service to $9.99 per user a month, a 75 percent reduction in price.”