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Microsoft Azure Cloud Service Updates – 2014 and Beyond

I think that we call now all agree that Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud Offering, is a major force in the cloud computing space for an ever expanding suite of services, capabilities and features. However, in this present age of cloud services, it is easy to not realize the sheer volume of new capabilities, service updates/improvements and production releases that the Microsoft Azure team has released over the past year. Let’s run some quick numbers, shall we:
 

Jan 2014 Feb 2014 Mar 2014 Apr 2014 May 2014 Jun 2014 Jul 2014 Aug 2014 Sep 2014 Oct 2014 Nov 2014 Dec 2014 Jan 2015
10 13 5 30 26 11 16 22 14 30 18 19 16

 
For those of you that are more visually inclined here is a graphical representation of the stats above:
Microsoft Azure Cloud Service Updates
 
In summary, that is total of 214 updates last year, with a monthly average of about 18 updates per month. To put this in perspective, think about how many significant updates you made to your on-premises or managed datacenter last year, in terms of bringing more services, capabilities and features online. If you had even up to 100 updates, 2014 must have been a very busy year!
And it looks like Microsoft is not slowing down this year. Last month, 16 service updates were published, a 50%+ increase compared to the same month in 2014. 3 updates were published in a single day in the first week of February 2015, so there is every indication that Microsoft will continue to innovate at a rapid pace and add more value to Azure this year as well.
Let’s dig into these updates to get a better understanding of the frequency of updates that each Azure service experienced in from Nov. 2013 to early Feb. 2015:
Looking at these updates, you will notice that the top 5 Azure Services that got the most updates are (in descending order): Web Sites, Virtual Machines, Storage, SQL Database and Cloud Services. Note that these services map to common workloads and foundational architectural components found in traditional datacenters. In fact, if we expand our scope of service updates to the top 10 categories, we will find that Virtual Network and Azure Active Directory are included as well. In my experience, many of my customers first migrate to these services in Azure, and then start exploring other services and capabilities down the road. As such, it makes sense for the Azure team to more frequently update these services.
Not all updates are created equal. A service becoming coming online for the first time in Preview mode or becoming Generally Available is arguably a bigger update than a specific feature being added or modified to a pre-existing service.
Well, why does this matter? The short answer is you get ever increasing value for your investment in Azure. As more preconfigured services, features and capabilities come online in Azure, you can deploy business solutions faster to your organization, at a lower cost because Azure jump starts your initiatives by lessening the burden of managing technology platforms that are increasing complicated to design, build, maintain and integrate together. In some cases, you suddenly have options that were not available to you before. For example, maybe it is now feasible to implement and regularly test Disaster Recovery for Tier-1 applications using Azure Site Recovery. Or you can finally say yes to your business stakeholders looking to use Hadoop and Machine Learning to help make decisions on critical projects with complex options and possible outcomes, because it is finally affordable.
With all these updates, it becomes just a tad tricky categorizing and tracking new Azure capabilities. To this end, I compiled Azure updates from the Azure Service Updates web site into a table so that it is a little easier to digest holistically. Without further ado, here is the list of Azure Cloud Service Updates for 2014:

CsWebServiceConfiguration Parameter Description
ShowJoinUsingLegacyClientLink If set to True, users joining a meeting by using a client application other than Lync will be given the opportunity to join the meeting. The default value is False.
ShowAlternateJoinOptionsExpanded
When set to True, alternate options for joining an online conference will automatically be expanded and shown to users. When set to False (the default value), these options will be available, but the user will have to display the list of options for themselves.

Here are my top 20 updates for last year, in no particular order. I picked this updates based on conversations I have had with businesses globally with regards to Azure:

  1. General availability: Azure Active Directory Application Proxy
  2. Co-admin limit increased
  3. Virtual Machines support VM Agents for Windows and Linux
  4. New service: ExpressRoute (Preview)
  5. Azure Active Directory App Gallery
  6. Azure Traffic Manager now supports Azure Web Sites
  7. General Availability: Oracle software on Azure
  8. Reduced Pricing on Storage
  9. Azure Active Directory Premium
  10. Irregular sign-in notifications added to Azure Active Directory Premium
  11. New service: Automation
  12. General Availability: Autoscale
  13. General Availability: Compute-intensive A8 and A9 instances for virtual machines
  14. Preview: Azure RemoteApp
  15. General availability: high-performance VPN gateway
  16. Preview: Instance-level public IPs for virtual machines
  17. Microsoft Antimalware and security partnerships with Trend Micro and Symantec
  18. General Availability: IP Reservation for VIPs
  19. Microsoft Azure Site Recovery: Virtual Machines replication directly to Azure
  20. Azure Backup support for client operating systems

I believe all Service Updates are critical and important. Which update made a huge difference to your business, as you talked about adopting Azure Cloud Services for implementing solutions that met your business needs (please leave a comment)?
 
 

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