Microsoft's Cloud Starts 4K and HDR Video Streaming Trials

Azure updates this week include vivid, pixel-packed 4K video streams, improved automatic Azure SQL database tuning and streamlined virtual machine backup management.

Microsoft Azure updates

This summer, Microsoft's cloud was called upon to help deliver billions of minutes of Olympic coverage. Soon, Azure Media Services customers will be able to pump out video streams in 4K, ultra-high definition (UHD) resolutions with dazzling colors, courtesy of high dynamic range (HDR) support.

"Today I am pleased to announce that we are conducting trials of HEVC encoding and delivery in Azure Media Services with our customers," Anil Murching, senior program manager of Azure Media Services at Microsoft, said in a Sept. 9 announcement.

The trials are based on the company's cloud-based Premium Encoder offering and the HEVC/H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding) video compression standard. The codec delivers a bit-rate savings of 50 percent compared to the AVC/H.264 standard.

The new encoder supports HEVC at resolutions of 4096 X 2160 pixels at 60 frames per second, said Murching. On the HDR video front, the encoder uses the HDR10 media profile, enabling content providers to deliver vibrant video footage to compatible displays.

In terms of cloud databases, Microsoft announced enhanced automatic tuning capabilities that dramatically slash the time required to optimize database performance.

in a Sept. 6 blog post, Vladimir Ivanovic, senior program manager of database systems at Microsoft, announced an "update to Azure SQL Database Advisor that greatly reduces the time (from a week to a day) required to produce and implement index tuning recommendations."

"This brings us one step closer to our vision where developers no longer have to worry about physical database schema management, as the system will self-optimize to provide predictable and optimal performance for every database application," he said.

Azure SQL Database Advisor is an analytics and diagnostic tool that uses machine-learning technologies to offer recommendations on improving Azure SQL database performance. Users can elect to have the tool automatically apply the recommendations by turning on its Automatic Tuning option.

Microsoft also updated its cloud-based data protection offering to streamline backup management.

"Today, we are adding the capability for our customers to manage backup policies and model them to meet their changing requirements from a single window, making Azure Backup an enterprise-level backup solution for Azure virtual machines," Trinadh Kotturu, a Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise program manager, wrote in a separate Sept. 8 blog post.

Users can now view all a Recovery Services vault's backup policies from a single window and add new policies with a new list view, added Kotturu. Further, they can now edit backup policies as scheduling and retention as their requirements change. Modified policies are pushed automatically to all affected virtual machines.

Azure Backup now displays a unified view of all virtual machines protected by a given backup policy. In a time-saving move, Microsoft has made it possible for administrators to add virtual machines to existing policies with a single click. Finally, users can delete backup policies that are no longer in use.

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...