Microsoft updates Azure cloud strategy

Microsoft has unveiled a major update to Azure in a bid to make it the platform of choice for cloud development

Microsoft has unveiled a major update to Azure in a bid to make it the platform of choice for cloud development.

Speaking at the company's TechEd develop conference in Houston, Brad Anderson, corporate vice-president for Windows Server and System Center, said: "The rate at which we are putting things out is just like nothing we’ve ever done before from our company."

Azure RemoteApp, a new service now in preview, enables users to run applications on Windows, Mac OS X, iOS or Android using thin-client technology. Essentially, this provides a way to run Windows Remote Desktop Services on Azure, although currently only individual apps can be published, rather than a full remote desktop.

Microsoft has also previewed Azure Files, which exposes Azure storage as a shared folder using the SMB (Server Message Block) 2.1 protocol. According to Microsoft, it provides easy file-sharing between Azure Virtual Machines (VMs). The same files can be accessed over the internet using a REST API.

Azure Site Recovery, based on the Hyper-V Recovery Manager announced in January, will now support the replication and recovery of an entire site directly to Azure. Previously, the service could only co-ordinate recovery between two customer-owned datacentres.

Improved IP address management means it is now possible to assign a public IP directly to a VM without needing to configure an Azure endpoint. However, users will have to take full responsibility for firewall protection.

The Azure ExpressRoute service provides a direct connection to Azure via a private network. It is now generally available in the UK from BT or Equinix. Other networking improvements include multiple site-to-site VPN connections between Azure and on-premise sites, and virtual networks between two Azure regions.

New compute-intensive VMs are now available, with up to 16 virtual cores, 112GB RAM and 40 Gbps InfiniBand network connections.

MSDN subscribers can now use Windows 7.1 or 8.1 clients in Azure VMs. This is only for development and test, but it is the first time Microsoft has allowed client Windows in Azure.

Also, Microsoft has added file encryption in Office 365 for documents stored in SharePoint online and OneDrive for Business, beginning in July 2014.

Read more on Microsoft Windows software