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Windows Azure Cache Service Preview Available

Microsoft on Tuesday announced some Windows Azure improvements, including a preview of a new distributed cache service for Azure-hosted applications.

The new Windows Azure Cache Service provides support for "up to 150 GB of in-memory data objects or content" for applications, according to a blog post by Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie. It provides cache support for apps hosted on Windows Azure in virtual machines or Azure Web sites and cloud services. It currently doesn't support Windows Azure Mobile Services, which is Microsoft's data backend support service for mobile devices, but Guthrie indicated that adding such support is part of Microsoft's plans.

Guthrie said that object retrieval by the cache service takes about 1 millisecond. That retrieval speed "can save 100s of GBs of content in-memory," according to Guthrie. It can lead to improved performance and scalability for applications.

The cache support is dynamic. Memory capacity can be increased or reduced as required, and the apps don't need to be redeployed for the change to take effect, according to Guthrie.

The new cache service adds high availability. It works across multiple servers, so it continues to work even if a server crashes. That aspect of the service is new as it wasn't part of Microsoft's older shared caching service, according to Guthrie, although this high-availability aspect is only offered with the "Premium" service offering.

IT pros create the cache using the Windows Azure Management Portal. The portal supplies usage stats in a Monitor tab, which will indicate measurements such as the bandwidth used, the number of read/write requests, and "cache miss" percentages. Developers get a URL and access key to add to their code, which will enable their apps to take advantage of the caching service. The cache service is added to a development project as part of the NuGet gallery in Visual Studio.

Microsoft is selling the Windows Azure Cache Service based on the cache size used by an organization. Guthrie said that "there are no per-transaction costs." However, Microsoft does charge for data transfers. Using the preview costs $12.50 per month for the Basic plan (one cache at 128 MB), $50 per month for Standard (10 caches at 1 GB) and $200 per month for Premium (10 caches at 5 GB), according to Microsoft's pricing details. It's not clear when Microsoft will make the final product generally available, or what the pricing will be.

Microsoft announced a few other Windows Azure improvements on Tuesday. The improvements include new AutoScale support for Web sites and virtual machines (not just cloud services), support for Web server HTTP logging as text blobs, plus new filtering options for operations logs (based on "status," "type" and "service name").

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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