Azure News Roundup: Upgrades and Enhancements Announced at Inspire

Microsoft's Azure cloud platform took center stage during Wednesday's kickoff keynote of the company's annual Inspire partner conference, the second Inspire event to be held online.

CEO Satya Nadella talked about the critical role his company's public cloud service currently plays in everything from data management and governance to AI-assisted software development. And he said it has become a key enabler of an emerging "enterprise metaverse," which he described as a new layer of the infrastructure stack where "the digital and physical worlds converge."

"Coming out of this pandemic," he said, "one thing is clear: Every organization is going to need more ubiquitous and decentralized computing power. ... The Microsoft cloud is the only cloud with the capabilities to support every organization's multicloud hybrid edge needs in this environment. We're building the world's computer with more than 60 datacenter regions, more than any other cloud provider."

Microsoft made a number of Azure-specific announcements on the first day of this two-day event. Here's a roundup of those announcements:

New and Expanded Programs To Support Azure Migration
The existing Azure Migration Program (AMP) has been rebranded as the Azure Migration and Modernization Program (AMMP). It now covers a wider breadth of migration and modernization offerings across apps, infrastructure and data, including support for Azure Arc.

New Support for Deploying Azure Containerized Apps
In March, Microsoft previewed its new App Containerization tool, which was touted as a means to quickly containerize and deploy .NET and Java apps onto Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). On Wednesday the company announced that App Containerization now supports container deployments to Azure App Service.

The App Containerization tool is designed to help modernize existing ASP.NET and Java Web apps by packaging them as containers and deploying the containerized app to AKS or Azure App Service Containers.

Windows Virtual Desktop Is Now Azure Virtual Desktop
New pricing and new capabilities come with new name. Microsoft is providing a public preview of the new features, a list of which includes:

  • The ability to join Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines (VMs) to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), as well as the ability to connect to the VMs from any device with basic credentials. Users will also be able to automatically enroll the VMs with Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
  • Users can now enroll Windows 10 Enterprise multisession Azure Virtual Desktop VMs in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and manage them in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center, the same way as shared physical devices are managed.
  • The onboarding experience for Azure Virtual Desktop has been streamlined in the Azure portal. "This new experience will validate requirements, kick off an automated deployment, and will also implement best practices," said Kam VedBrat, Microsoft Partner Group program manager, in a blog post. "With only a few clicks, you can set up a full Azure Virtual Desktop environment in your Azure subscription."
  • A new monthly per-user access pricing option for organizations to use Azure Virtual Desktop to deliver apps from the cloud to external users.

Azure API Management Integration with Azure Event Grid Now in Preview
Event Grid is a single service for managing routing of events from source to destination. With this capability, users can configure API Management to publish events to Event Grid when a new user or new subscription is created on an API Management resource, the company says.

Azure Synapse Partners Can Include Their Apps in New Partner Center
Microsoft partners who are in the Azure Synapse analytics platform ecosystem can now include their solutions in a new Partner Center, which is accessed directly from Synapse Studio. With the new Partner Center, Azure Synapse customers can browse partner solutions to learn more about each solution, connect to the partner service via an API and automatically start a trial, explained John "JG" Chirapurath, vice president of Microsoft's Azure group, in a blog post.

"This capability is open to all users performing analytics projects with a Synapse workspace," he wrote, "allowing users to also explore adding independent software vendor (ISV) solutions to their analytics. A trial can be implemented directly from the Synapse Studio, allowing customers to quickly test ISV solutions."

Azure Stack HCI Partners Get New Marketing Assets
Azure Stack HCI is a cloud-connected, hyperconverged infrastructure operating system delivered as an Azure service. Microsoft is now offering users of this service new programs and marketing assets to showcase technical capabilities and highlight the value of enhancements. These include a new partner program for independent software vendors (ISVs) and an advanced specialization in Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure with Azure Stack HCI (more on this under "New Azure Specializations" below). There's also simplified guest licensing activation and enhanced infrastructure security.

More Time To Upgrade Windows Server and SQL Server
For Microsoft customers who need more time to upgrade and modernize their Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/R2 implementations, Microsoft will now provide one additional year of free extended security updates for 2008/R2 servers on Azure, the company says.

Customers can take advantage of Azure-only capabilities and "ease operational burden while modernizing Windows Server and SQL Server environments," said Tanuj Bansal, senior director of product marketing in Microsoft's Azure group, in a blog post.

He cited as an example Azure Automanage, which is designed to improve workload performance and uptime through simplified management for Windows Server and Linux VMs. He also pointed to Azure VMware Solutions, which allows customers to migrate quickly while continuing to take advantage of their VMware investments.

New Azure Specializations
The Microsoft Partner Network is adding two advanced specializations: Hybrid Operations and Management with Microsoft Azure Arc and Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure with Microsoft Azure Stack HCI.

The Hybrid Operations and Management with Azure Arc specialization "validates a partner's ability to enable at scale management and DevOps across hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios using Azure Arc," the company says. "The Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure with Azure Stack HCI specialization validates the partner's ability to deploy a hyperconverged infrastructure on-premises with connectivity to Azure Stack HCI."

Partners who earn Azure advanced specializations "gain increased visibility with Microsoft sellers and customers, as well as access to Azure business programs and additional financial incentives."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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