A Swathe of Microsoft Azure Updates

I’ve been a bit lazy over the last couple of weeks when it’s come to blogging a) because I’ve been on the road quite a bit with work and I haven’t fancied sitting in front of my PC when I got home in the evening and b) I’ve been too hooked watching Ray Donovan on TV to think about picking up the laptop.

The problem with not blogging for a while is that I have a lot of pent up desire to post things that I’ve been thinking about and doing over the last couple of weeks, not enough time to do it, nor the will power to type it all out.

As we all know, Azure is fairly close to my heart these days and three’s been a lot of activity in Azure across a whole host of offerings.

The biggest changes are covered in full in the blog post by Scott Guthrie over at http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/azure-sql-databases-api-management-media-services-websites-role-based-access-control-and-more.

Azure SQL Service Tiers

For me and my love obsession with running WordPress on Azure, the biggest changes here are the General Availability of the Azure SQL Database Service Tiers. These are the tiers which have been in preview since early this year and are due to replace the legacy tiers next year. The good news here is that Microsoft appear to have made a change during the course of the year which means you don’t need to actually migrate your data and you can simply switch between the tiers so there’s no excuse now.

Azure Websites

Another big change is to Azure Websites. Azure Websites have previously not been able to integrate with a Virtual Network to allow you to easily consume on-premise resources as part of a website. You could get around this to an extent using a BizTalk Hybrid Connection however the setup of this required agents to be deployed across the servers you wanted to connect to and meant extra configuration and complexity. We can now consume resources on-premise via our Virtual Network to on-premise resources whether it be a SQL Server, a back-end application server or whatever your website needs.

As part of the website changes, there is a new gallery template available for Websites named Scalable WordPress. This is a WordPress site deployment on Azure Websites designed for Azure which includes pre-configuration to use Azure BLOB Storage and easy configuration for Azure CDN. This new template potentially puts all my work to hone WordPress for Azure to the waste heap. As a WordPress user and fan, I’m going to be deploying one of these sites in the next few days (maybe longer) to see how Microsoft have built the site template. My money is on either they have used plugins to achieve it in the same way I do or they’ve customized the code base to make it work. Either way, I’ll be interested to see.

Azure RBAC

Finally, at last, the feature that we’ve all been wanting, needing and waiting for. No more, is a subscription the boundary for security and access control in Azure as with the release of Role Based Access Control (RBAC), we can now control access to resources in our Azure subscriptions. I’m really looking forward to having a poke around with this feature as I see this being one of the biggest features ever with Azure.

Azure Active Directory (AAD) Sync

In a separate article over at http://blogs.technet.com/b/ad/archive/2014/04/21/new-sync-capabilities-in-preview-password-write-back-new-aad-sync-and-multi-forest-support.aspx it was announced that the latest version of the AAD Sync tool has come out of Preview and is now in General Availability.

This new version supports Self-Service Password Reset write-back to Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) with DirSync and Multi-Forest sync for complex domain and Exchange Server topologies.

Password Write-Back for organisations using AAD could be really good thing, just bear in mind before you get too excited about the reduction in service desk calls you can achieve through self-service password reset, you need to meet the prerequisites for the writeback agent which are pretty simple but you also need to be paying for Azure Active Directory Premium.

All in all, this has been a great month for Azure and I’m looking forward to trying to get my teeth into some of these new features.