At Ignite, Microsoft unveils data analytics, server, and DevOps products for Azure

Microsoft today announced new Azure data, analytics, and server features and updates at Ignite, its annual enterprise-focused developer conference. Among other developments, Azure Container Apps is now available in preview alongside SQL Server 2022, while Azure Cosmos DB is gaining several novel, dev-oriented services. Beyond this, new Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets are making their public debut in addition to updates to Azure Disk Storage and Azure Network Function Manager.

“Now, more than ever, digital technology is at the core of addressing the way our customers do business,” Azure marketing corporate VP Kathleen Mitford said in a blog post. “From end-to-end data capabilities and cloud-native applications to cross-functional collaboration, Microsoft cloud technologies help our customers deliver solutions and services faster to meet their own customers’ rapidly changing needs.”

Data processing and databases

To its Azure Cosmos DB database service, Microsoft is rolling out customizable provisioned throughput spending limits, cost-savings alerts in Azure Advisor, and partial document updates for the Core (SQL) API. It’s also launching Azure Managed Instance for Apache Cassandra in general availability, easing the path for developers to expand their Cassandra workloads to the cloud with automatic synchronization.

In related news, Azure Synapse Analytics — Microsoft’s data integration, warehousing, and analytics offering — is gaining industry-specific database templates designed to help developers describe data in a more standardized way. New and existing projects can leverage templates for retail, consumer packaged foods, banking, fund management, property, and casualty insurance, all available in preview.

Real-time analytics for telemetry, time series, and log data are also entering preview through Azure Synapse. And Event Hubs Premium is becoming generally available, a linked service in Synapse that features reserved compute, memory, and store resources as well as data processing pipelines for managing event streaming, ingestion, and analysis.

Separately, Microsoft revealed that Flexible Server — a deployment option for Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL — will launch in general availability this month. As during the preview period, it’ll provide control for an organization’s databases, availability options, and built-in capabilities for greater cost optimization. Flexible Server will arrive alongside updates to Azure SQL Managed Instance, including a new feature that connects SQL servers hosted anywhere, hardware based on the Intel Ice Lake processor, more memory, increased storage to 16TB, and Windows authentication support.

Larger storage sizes on the general-purpose Azure SQL Managed Instance service tier are now generally available. All other Azure SQL Managed Instance updates are in preview.

SQL Server and Kubernetes

Microsoft also unveiled SQL Server 2022 (in gated preview), which features integrations with Synapse Link and Azure Purview, disaster recovery live migration, and no-ETL (extract, transform and load) connections to cloud analytics. With it, the company detailed updates coming to the Azure Service Bus this month, including support for sending and receiving payloads up to 100MB for premium namespaces — an increase from previous 1MB limit. (As a refresher, the Azure Service Bus is a messaging service that can be used to connect apps, devices, and services running in the cloud to other apps or services.)

In related news, Microsoft said that the Azure Web PubSub service will reach general availability in December, leveraging the standardized WebSocket protocol to support real-time client/server connections. With it, customers will be able to create loosely coupled apps including chats, live broadcasting, and internet of things dashboards.

New solutions for running Java Enterprise Edition applications on Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Red Hat OpenShift are now available in the Azure Marketplace, as is the Open Service Mesh add-on for AKS. The Open Service Mesh is a free native service mesh developed by Microsoft that runs on Kubernetes, the popular open source container-orchestration system for automating app deployment, scaling, and management.

DevOps and hybrid

In DevOps developments, Microsoft announced an OpenID Connect integration between Azure Active Directory and GitHub Actions (currently in preview) that brings the OpenID authentication protocol to two of Microsoft’s existing services. And the company launched the DevOps Workflow Generator, a tool designed to help customers visualize their DevOps toolchain while identifying ways to improve it.

Beyond this, Azure API Management integration with Azure Event Grid is now generally available, enabling customers to build apps that update a database, create a billing account, and send an email notification each time a user is added to an API Management instance. Joining the integration in preview is GraphQL passthrough support in Azure API Management, which lets developers leverage the existing benefits of API Management — including security, observability and reduced latency — for their GraphQL APIs while also adding GraphQL-specific features.

Meanwhile, native support for WebSocket APIs in Azure API Management is now generally available. As Microsoft explains, this will allow companies to manage, protect, observe, and expose their WebSocket APIs in Azure API Management to build real-time web apps.

Azure Stack, Arc, and Windows Server

Azure Stack HCI, a Windows Server 2019-based cluster that uses “validated” hardware to run virtualized workloads locally, has been updated to include features like GPU enablement for AI and machine learning, soft kernel reboot, thin provisioning, and dynamic CPU capability, Microsoft announced. Management-level updates span multi-cluster monitoring, the ability to manage virtual machines from the Azure portal, and managed guest operating system inside virtual machines. At the security level, Server Core — a minimal installation of Windows Server — now ships with all Azure Stack HCI systems, providing a baseline defense against cybersecurity threats.

A new sizing and deployment planning tool for Azure Stack HCI is also now available, plus a new partner program that allows IT teams to tap independent software vendor solutions and partner services on Azure Stack.

In Azure Arc news, the newest version of Azure Arc HCI is Azure Arc-enabled by default, providing developers of virtual machines running on Azure Stack HCI with self-service control from Azure to help inventory, organize, and control virtualization environments. Azure Arc’s integration with VMware vSphere has also been enhanced, enabling vSphere users to create, configure, operate, and delete virtual machines based on existing or new vSphere templates.

Azure Arc, introduced in 2019, is a hybrid cloud platform with support for a range of compute environments running in the datacenter. Here, “hybrid cloud” refers to a mix of computing, storage, and services made up of on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and a public cloud.

“One [of our customers’] key challenges is securing and managing their distributed environments consistently and building innovative applications using cloud-native technologies,” Mitford said. “With Azure Arc, customers can take advantage of Azure’s comprehensive security, governance, and management capabilities for their Windows, Linux, SQL Server, and Kubernetes deployments in their datacenters, at the edge, or multicloud.”

Also new is Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI, which lets companies enable employees to use virtual desktop infrastructure with PCs running Windows 10 and 11 from their datacenters. An autoscale feature in Azure Virtual Desktop — available starting today — lets users start or stop session hosts automatically based on a schedule.

Azure Automanage, which allows IT admins to optimize IT management with automated operations, received related upgrades today enabling support for custom configuration profiles to both Windows Server and Linux virtual machines (in preview) and Azure Arc-enabled server virtual machines including on Azure Stack HCI (also in preview). Meanwhile, Azure Automanage for Windows Server is gaining the ability to quickly deploy security updates without having to frequently reboot (in preview), access file servers remotely over untrusted networks and without a VPN (generally available), and migrate Windows Server workloads to Azure while preserving original IP addresses (generally available).

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