Microsoft Streamlines Azure Preview Portal Experience

This month's update makes the cloud management portal easier to navigate, use and customize.

cloud management

Microsoft's cloud-powered, DevOps-enabling Azure Preview Portal has a new look and feel after the November 2015 update. The changes are aimed at helping customers better manage and monitor their Azure cloud-powered application environments.

The newest release improves how users interact with the portal, allowing them to drill down to their desired tools, dashboards and controls in a more intuitive manner. One example is the new resource browsing experience, explained Leon Welicki, a Microsoft Azure program manager, in a company blog post.

"When you are browsing through a list of resources and click on a resource, the browse blade is now automatically collapsed to a list that displays only resource names," he stated. "If you close the resource blade, then the browse blade is restored (it expands and shows all the columns again). This experience makes it easier to both navigate through a list of resources and focus on one resource."

Browse blade lists are now wider and can accommodate more columns. For example, the classic virtual machines (VMs) view can also display a VM's size, DNS name and VIP status. The browse blade can also now be used as a springboard for other tasks.

"You can take action on a resource directly from a browse blade," Welicki said. "For example, if you want to connect to, start or stop a Virtual Machine you don't need to open a resource blade, you can just do it directly from the Virtual Machines list."

Resource blades have been modified to fit Microsoft's new approach to Azure's management UI, which includes settings that can be searched and grouped, along with a minimal set of default tiles that favors tiles that provide insights into key metrics. "The result of this change is improved performance, simpler default interaction model, and improved consistency across all resource types," stated Welicki.

To help users get started, the default dashboard sports a simplified design. "The first tile is All resources and provides access to your resources directly from the dashboard. The other default tiles provide access to Azure Service Health, the Azure Marketplace and Help and Support," Welicki said.

The Tile Gallery is now directly accessible from the dashboard, complementing the portal's existing support for pinning tiles. Additional Azure services and apps are a bit more discoverable courtesy of a Marketplace search box that appears in the New menu. Other enhancements include dismissible "toasts" for status alerts, a color-coded notification icon and a new dark theme.

To help roll out the faster, more responsive experience, Microsoft will perform a "one-time reset of blade customizations" in early December, announced Welicki. "Performance improvement has been a top priority so we've optimized many blades' default layout for faster loading." The behind-the-scenes reset will not affect dashboard customizations and user preferences, he assured.

Finally, Welicki indicated that Azure Preview Portal will soon shed its beta status after having met the company's "usability, performance and reliability" benchmarks. "Our team has been hard at work improving on those areas and we are glad to share that we have met those quality bars. As a result of that we will be making the portal GA [general availability] very soon," he said.

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...