Microsoft Upgrades Windows Azure With Scheduler, Monitoring Updates

Microsoft continues to enhance up its enterprise cloud services slate with new features that automate management operations and streamline monitoring.

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Microsoft is expanding Windows Azure's management capabilities with a new set of services that help customers schedule jobs and keep an eye on their workloads, announced Windows Azure Vice President Scott Guthrie.

Currently in preview, Windows Azure Scheduler allows administrators "to schedule jobs that invoke HTTP/S endpoints or post messages to a storage queue on any schedule you define," wrote Guthrie in a Dec. 12 blog post. "Using the Scheduler, you can create jobs that reliably call services either inside or outside of Windows Azure and run those jobs immediately, on a regular schedule, or set them to run at a future date," he added.

Windows Azure Scheduler is grouped under the App Services category in the Windows Azure Management Portal. During the job creation process, users can define actions (such as an HTTP GET request) and set a recurring status. Results are then displayed in the jobs view, which "shows a summary status of failures/faults with any job.

The History tab offers administrators "more detailed status (including the HTTP response headers + body for any HTTP-based job)," stated Guthrie. "I encourage you to try out the Scheduler—I think you'll find it a really useful way to automate jobs to happen in a reliable way."

Scheduler is free for up to 3,600 job executions. During the preview period, Microsoft is offering a 50 percent discount, bringing down the price of the unlimited plan to $10.

Microsoft also released new monitoring metrics for Premium and Standard SQL databases (sys.resource_stats). According to an MSDN support document, the feature returns "CPU usage and storage data for the database that is collected and aggregated within five-minute intervals."

The tool provides insight into "CPU usage, storage size change or database SKU modification." Other metrics include read/write input/output operations per second (IOPS), active memory and active sessions. Windows Azure maintains historical data for 14 days, claims Microsoft.

Newly revamped Azure site Diagnostic tools streamline Web server log management. Guthrie explained that in the past, "you could select an existing blob container when configuring the storage location for your Web server HTTP logs." The new changes allow users to create a new blob container that pushes the "logs to in a single, consistent configuration experience within the Windows Azure Management Portal."

In addition, Microsoft has added more than "20 new log actions for Windows Azure Mobile Services," Guthrie said.

The Windows Azure updates join a new cloud data availability-enhancing option, called Read-Access Geo Redundant Storage (RA-GRS), also released Dec. 12. Steven Martin, general manager for Windows Azure, stated in a corporate blog: "RA-GRS provides read access to your secondary storage replica should the storage account on the primary location become unavailable."

RA-GRS, also in preview, is meant to combat one of the thorniest problems facing enterprise cloud services providers: outages. "As customers increasingly rely on the cloud for business-critical solutions, the durability of data and ability to access data during a catastrophic event becomes paramount," Martin wrote.

In the past, Azure's Geo-Replicated Storage did not provide access to data housed in a secondary location without resorting to a storage cluster failover, said Guthrie. Now, RA-GRS grants "immediate access to your data in the event of a temporary failure in your primary storage location (and to build-in support within your applications to handle the read failover automatically)," 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...