Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (April 2020 – Weeks: 13 and 14)

This series of blog posts includes the most important announcements and major updates regarding Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Azure Stack, officialized by Microsoft in the last two weeks.

Azure

Compute

Azure Spot Virtual Machines are now generally available

Spot Virtual Machines provide scalability while reducing costs and they’re ideal for workloads that can be interrupted. Get unique Azure pricing and benefits when running Windows Server workloads on Spot Virtual Machines.

Storage

Direct Upload of Azure Managed Disks

Customers can bring an on-premises VHD to Azure as a managed disk in two ways: copy the VHD into a storage account before converting it into a managed disk, or attach an empty managed disk to a virtual machine and do a copy. Both of these have disadvantages. The first option requires maintaining storage accounts, while the second option has the additional cost of running virtual machines. Direct upload addresses both these issues and provides a simplified workflow by allowing you to copy an on-premises VHD directly into an empty managed disk. You can use it to upload to Standard HDD, Standard SSD, and Premium SSD managed disks of all the supported sizes.

New Azure Disk sizes and bursting support 

Azure Disks, block-level storage volumes managed by Azure and used with Azure Virtual Machines, now have new 4-GiB, 8-GiB, and 16-GiB sizes available on both premium and standard SSDs. The new disk sizes introduced on standard SSD disk provide the most cost-efficient SSD offering in the cloud, providing consistent disk performance at the lowest cost per GB. In addition, Microsoft now supports bursting on Azure premium SSD disks in all Azure regions in the public cloud. With bursting, even the smallest premium SSD disks at 4-GiB can now achieve up to 3,500 IOPS and 170 MiB/second, and better accommodate spiky workloads. It can be best used for OS disks to accelerate virtual machine (VM) boot or data disks to accommodate spiky traffic. To learn more about disk bursting, read the premium SSD bursting article.

Azure Ultra Disks: Shared disk capability in preview

Attach an Azure managed disk to multiple virtual machines (VMs) simultaneously using the new shared disks feature of Azure Managed Disks. Deploy new or migrate existing clustered applications to Azure by attaching a managed disk to multiple VMs. Shared disks also support SCSI persistent reservation protocol.

Server-side encryption with customer-managed keys for Azure Managed Disks in GA 

Azure customers already benefit from server-side encryption with platform-managed keys for Managed Disks enabled by default. Server-side encryption with customer-managed keys improves on platform-managed keys by giving you control of the encryption keys to meet your compliance need. Today, customers can also use Azure Disk Encryption which leverages the BitLocker feature of Windows and the DM-Crypt feature of Linux to encrypt Managed Disks with customer-managed keys within the guest VM. Server-side encryption with customer-managed keys improves on Azure Disk encryption by enabling you to use any OS types and images, including custom images, for your virtual machines by encrypting data in the Storage service.

General availability of incremental snapshots of Managed Disks

Incremental snapshots are a cost-effective, point-in-time backup of managed disks. Unlike current snapshots, which are billed for the full size, incremental snapshots are billed for the delta changes to disks since the last snapshot and are always stored on the most cost-effective storage, Standard HDD storage irrespective of the storage type of the parent disks. For additional reliability, incremental snapshots are stored on Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) by default in regions that support ZRS. Incremental snapshots provide differential capability, enabling customers and independent solution vendors (ISVs) to build backup and disaster recovery solutions for Managed Disks. It allows you to get the changes between two snapshots of the same disk, thus copying only changed data between two snapshots across regions, reducing time and cost for backup and disaster recovery. Incremental snapshots are accessible instantaneously; you can read the underlying data of incremental snapshots or restore disks from them as soon as they are created. Azure Managed Disk inherit all the compelling capabilities of current snapshots and have a lifetime independent from their parent managed disks and independent of each other.

New additions to the Azure Archive Storage partner network

Azure Archive Storage is now integrated with new partners including IBM Spectrum Protect Plus, NetApp StorageGRID, Rubrik, and Veritas NetBackup, making the partner network even more comprehensive. Other Azure Archive Storage partners include Archive360, CloudBerry Lab, Cohesity, Commvault, HubStor, Igneous, NetApp, and Tiger Technology. 

Networking

IPv6 for Azure Virtual Network is generally available

IPv6 for Azure Virtual Network is now generally available worldwide. IPv6 support within the Azure Virtual Network and to the internet enables you to expand into the growing mobile and IoT markets with Azure-based applications and to address IPv4 depletion in your own corporate networks.

Azure Container Registry support for Private Link now in preview

Azure Container Registry now supports Private Link, a means to limit network traffic of resources within the virtual network.

Azure Edge Zones extends Azure services to the edge

Azure Edge Zones combines the power of Azure, 5G, carriers, and operators around the world to enable new scenarios for developers, customers and partners. These new offerings are coming to preview and will help local telecoms and carrier partners drive new solutions for business and society, including autonomous vehicles, smart cities, virtual reality, and other smart industry use cases. 

Azure Stack

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge preview

Microsoft also announced the expansion of Azure Stack Edge preview with the NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU. Azure Stack Edge is a cloud managed appliance that provides processing for fast local analysis and insights to the data. With the addition of an NVIDIA GPU, customers are able to build in the cloud then run at the edge.

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack Hub preview

Microsoft, in collaboration with NVIDIA, is announcing that Azure Stack Hub with Azure NC-Series Virtual Machine (VM) support is now in preview. GPU support in Azure Stack Hub unlocks a variety of new solution opportunities. With our Azure Stack Hub hardware partners, customers can choose the appropriate GPU for their workloads to enable Artificial Intelligence, training, inference, and visualization scenarios.

Event Hubs on Azure Stack Hub in preview

We are now announcing the availability of the preview version of Event Hubs on Azure Stack Hub. Event Hubs on Azure Stack Hub will allow you to realize cloud and on-premises scenarios that use streaming and event-based architectures.