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TechEd: Microsoft Previews Azure RemoteApp and Azure Files, Delivers ExpressRoute

Microsoft kicked off its annual TechEd conference today and  underscored its "cloud first, mobile first" mantra by debuting key new wares aimed at advancing the company's effort to deliver access to data and applications to users anywhere and on any device.

Though Microsoft didn't reveal plans for new releases of Windows Server or System Center, nor was it expected to, the company is using this week's event in Houston to emphasize the role its Azure cloud service and Active Directory can play to deliver secure enterprise infrastructure to all forms of mobile devices. Microsoft officials emphasized that these new tools for IT pros and developers will let organizations house their data on-premises, in the public cloud or in a hybrid scenario that will combine the two.

Among the company's announcements today included Azure RemoteApp, the general availability of ExpressRoute and Azure Files, among a slew of other announcements at TechEd. I'll be drilling into these and many of the new offerings in the coming days and weeks.

Corporate VP Brad Anderson kicked off TechEd with the opening keynote today, saying cloud and mobile go hand-in-hand. "You cannot have a cloud without connected device, Anderson said. "As you think about the connected devices, without that cloud, all you have is potential that goes with it." He added: "The amount of information that will be at our fingertips will be amazing."

Key to putting that information at users' fingertips will be empowering IT to protect enterprise data, while at the same time giving users the access to information from any device. Microsoft's new Azure RemoteApp will let IT deliver Windows applications to almost any device including Windows tablets, Macs, iPads and Android tablets.

The preview of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp is now available to organizations that want to let up to 20 users test the app. Because this is a preview, the company has not determined how it will offer the service from a pricing and subscription model. Azure RemoteApp will deliver applications, initially Office in the preview,  via Microsoft's Remote Data Services. The service will be designed to let organizations keep data centrally located and will support up to 1,300 Windows-based applications.

Microsoft has not committed to when it will release the offering but the company is targeting the end of the year. "Every organization I talk to has a very large inventory of Windows applications they're looking to deliver to mobile devices," Anderson said. "With Azure RemoteApp, users can scale up and down, so their capital expenditures goes down dramatically."

Anderson also made clear that Microsoft intends to be aggressive on the mobile device management front. Microsoft's recently announced Enterprise Mobility Suite will cost $4 per user per month regardless of the number of devices supported, Anderson announced.

The company also announced administrators will be able to manage Office for iPad, iPhone and Android devices. This Windows Intune component of the Enterprise Mobility Suite will let administrators manage a line of business apps running on Android and iOS.

Looking to help IT organizations reduce VM sprawl, Microsoft unveiled Azure Files. Based on the standard SMB 2.1 protocol, Azure Files runs on top of Azure storage will allow for shared readers and writers. It will also work on-premises, allowing users to access their storage accounts without having to spin up a virtual machine and mange an SMB share. In short, Azure Files will let IT organizations create single file shares available from multiple virtual machines.

Microsoft's ExpressRoute, which lets organizations connect their datacenters directly to Azure without using a public Internet connection, is generally available. The service is based on MPLS connectivity from carriers including AT&T, Verizon and Level 3, among others, as well as through colocation provider Equinix. This will appeal to those who want reliable, faster and inherently more secure connectivity, and Microsoft talked up this capability for those who want to use Azure for disaster recovery and business continuity.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/12/2014 at 10:58 AM


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