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Windows Azure Import/Export Preview Released

Microsoft today rolled out a preview of an import/export service for Windows Azure.

In using the service, IT shops literally send a hard drive containing data to Microsoft (export) or they elect to receive a hard drive from Microsoft (import) containing data from their Windows Azure BLOB storage account. The import/export service is enabled as an option via the Windows Azure Management Portal.

The Management Portal initiates the steps for the whole import/export scenario. It sets up BitLocker drive encryption, where the IT organization itself holds the key to the encrypted drives. It also sets up the Federal Express shipping order. Microsoft will charge a flat drive handling rate of $40, except when the drive is sent to a datacenter that isn't the organization's main facility. In that case, extra data transfer fees are charged, according to Microsoft's import/export pricing page.

Microsoft only accepts 3.5-inch SATA II disks, with a maximum of 10 disks per job, according to the company's import/export documentation page. The idea behind the service is to ship disks by mail to avoid bandwidth hits in transferring masses of data either to or from Windows Azure.

Details on the new service are illustrated in a blog post by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft Server and Tools Business. He recapped some overall Windows Azure improvements for developers, which were also outlined in a Windows Azure team blog post. Microsoft made it easier in Windows Azure to send push broadcasts to the notification hubs of mobile users using Boolean expressions in the code. Web Sockets support for applications can now be turned on in Windows Azure. Microsoft also indicated that it had released PHP 5.5 on Windows Azure.

There's also better integration in Windows Azure for connecting with Team Foundation Services projects, which is a hosted code collaboration platform. Microsoft is providing developer analytics in Windows Azure in the Windows Azure Management Portal. The developer analytics capability uses an app performance monitoring solution developed by Microsoft partner New Relic, which can be used to assess the performance of Azure-hosted Web sites.

Microsoft also unveiled a "billing alert service preview" for Windows Azure. It lets users set up e-mail notifications to send to themselves whenever a Windows Azure bill exceeds a specified threshold.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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