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Windows Azure Gets Improvements and PCI Certification

Microsoft rolled out improvements to its cloud-based Windows Azure services this week.

Perhaps the big announcement among the bunch, at least from an IT pro standpoint, was the general availability of the Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager service. However, Windows Azure also got some monitoring improvements, including new alerts. In addition, Microsoft added a slick new way to safely publish Web site changes using Windows Azure.

Organizations also will be glad to hear that Windows Azure now meets the compliance criteria of the Payment Card Industry's (PCI's) Data Security Standards (DSS). Those are standards used to validate credit card payment systems.

"By providing PCI DSS validated infrastructure and platform services, Windows Azure delivers a compliant framework for you to run your own secure and compliant applications," according to Microsoft's announcement in a Windows Azure blog post.

Windows Azure also received International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification for various services and components. That ISO certification also includes information security management system compliance for "infrastructure, development, operations and support," according to Microsoft's announcement.

The various new improvements follow rapidly from Microsoft's October rollouts and November service releases for Windows Azure.

New Monitoring Improvements: Microsoft added an "Always On" capability for Web sites hosted on Windows Azure. When activated, this Always On feature will automatically check to see that a Web site is responsive. New alerts also were added. One alert checks Windows Azure Web sites every minute so that organizations can better determine how those sites are being used. Microsoft added an alert for its SQL Database service, which can detect CPU cores and input/output operations per second, according to a blog post by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft Server and Tools Business.

Web Site Publishing Improvements: Microsoft enabled Web site staging for Windows Azure Web sites. Users can update Web site content files without going live, check the output and then use a "Swap" button to swap the live site for the staged site. This approach can update multiple files at once and provides a backup copy in case something goes amiss. The staged site appears in the Windows Azure dashboard as a subnode of the primary live site, according to Guthrie's post, which shows screenshots.

Developer Improvements: Developers also got a perk with this update. It's now possible for Web site and mobile app developers to use "SenchaTouch" capabilities on the Windows Azure platform. This new capability is based on the integration of the HTML- and JavaScript-based Sencha development framework into Windows Azure.

These new Windows Azure features all are currently available for use. However, some of them are described as being at the "preview" test stage. It's not clear from Microsoft's announcements which Windows Azure features are polished and which are previews. The one exception is the new Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager, which was commercially released on Thursday.

About the Author

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

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