Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (May 2020 – Weeks: 21 and 22)

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 DevTest Labs updates

New updates are available in Azure DevTest Labs:

  • Azure DevTest Labs is now available in the Switzerland North and Switzerland West regions. The support includes full Azure DevTest Labs capabilities. 
  •  Azure DevTest Labs environments are now available in Azure Government

Storage

Object replication public preview for Azure Blob storage

Object replication is a new capability for block blobs that lets you replicate your data from your blob container in one storage account to another anywhere in Azure. Object replication unblocks a new set of common replication scenarios:

  • Minimize latency – have your users consume the data locally rather than issuing cross-region read requests.
  • Increase efficiency – have your compute clusters process the same set of objects locally in different regions.
  • Optimize data distribution – have your data consolidated in a single location for processing/analytics and then distribute only resulting dashboards to your offices worldwide.
  • Minimize cost – tier down your data to Archive upon replication completion using lifecycle management policies to minimize the cost.
Azure File Sync: new version
 

Improvements and issues that are fixed:

  • Storage Sync Agent (FileSyncSvc) crashes frequently after installing the Azure File Sync v10 agent.

More information about this release:

  • This update is available for Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019 installations that have Azure File Sync agent version 4.0.1.0 or later installed.
  • The agent version of this update rollup is 10.0.2.0.
  • A restart is required for servers that have an existing Azure File Sync agent installation.
  • Installation instructions are documented in KB4522412.

Azure Ultra Disk Storage available in more regions

Azure Ultra Disks offers high throughput, high IOPS, and consistent low latency disk storage for Azure Virtual Machines (VMs). Azure Ultra Disk Storage is now available in Central US, West US, South Central US, US Gov Virginia, France Central, and Japan East. 

Azure server-side encryption with customer-managed keys available for Azure Ultra Disks

Azure Ultra Disk customers already benefit from server-side encription (SSE) with platform-managed keys for Azure Managed Disks enabled by default. SSE with customer-managed keys (CMK) improves on platform-managed keys by giving you control of the encryption keys to meet your compliance needs. SSE with CMK is integrated with Azure Key Vault, which provides highly available and scalable secure storage for your keys backed by hardware security modules (HSM). You can either bring your own keys (BYOK) to your key vault or generate new keys in the Key Vault.

Networking

Azure Firewall updates

New key features are now available in Azure Firewall:

  • Forced tunneling: configure a default route (0.0.0.0/0) on the AzureFirewallSubnet or publish a default route to the firewall over BGP, to send all traffic to on-premises or nearby NVA.  
  • SQL FQDN filtering: filter outbound SQL traffic using application rules. Support is for SQL proxy mode only. Redirect mode support is tentatively planned for later in 2020. 
  • The limit for Azure DevTest Labs from 100 to 250 for both DNAT and SNAT.

These features are included in the Azure Firewall standard SKU, so there is no change in the price.

Network service tiers with new Routing Preference option in preview
Using the new “Routing Preference” option in Azure, customers can choose how their traffic is routed between Azure and the internet. Prior to making “routing preferences” customer selectable, Azure exclusively kept and optimized customer traffic over Azure’s global network. The introduction of this new competitive egress tier adds a secondary option for solutions that do not require the premium predictability and performance of Microsoft’s global network. Instead it will allow customers to further architect their traffic to their needs and allow routing to the public internet as quickly as possible. Customers will have the option to select routing preference while creating a public IP address for an IaaS resource such as a Virtual Machine, Virtual Machine Scale Set or internet-facing Load Balancer, and for their Azure storage account.

Azure Peering Service is generally available

Peering Service is a networking capability that enhances customer connectivity to Microsoft cloud services such as Office 365, Dynamics 365, software as a service (SaaS) services, Azure, or any Microsoft services accessible via the public internet. Microsoft has partnered with internet service providers (ISPs), internet exchange partners (IXPs), and software-defined cloud interconnect (SDCI) providers worldwide to provide reliable and high-performing public connectivity with optimal routing from the customer to the Microsoft network.

Enterprises looking for internet-first access to the cloud, or considering SD-WAN architecture, or with high usage of Microsoft SaaS services need robust and high-performing internet connectivity. Customers can work with their Telco/carrier to take advantage of Peering Service, which is now generally available.

Key customer features include:

  • Best public routing (optimum route hops/AS hops) over the internet to Microsoft cloud services for optimal performance and reliability.
  • Ability to select the preferred service provider to connect to the Microsoft cloud.
  • Traffic insights such as latency reporting and prefix monitoring.
  • Route analytics and statistics: Events for (BGP) route anomalies (leak or hijack detection) and suboptimal routing.

Azure Stack

Azure Stack expands solutions and partner ecosystem
A host of new Azure Stack portfolio partners are accelerating time to value for hybrid customers today:

  • The Aware Group, which builds IoT Edge modules that use AI to detect anomalies and perform noise classification, is now delivering modules and
    solutions tailored to the industry.
  • Avanade is offering customers a fully managed Azure Stack Hub leveraging HPE’s Edgeline EL8000, a small form factor that does not require external cooling, making it ideal for locations like retail or manufacturing, where a datacenter may not be available on site.
  • CloudAssert is providing an enterprise cloud-based solution streamlining the management and operations of multiple Azure Stack Hub deployments, including resources located on-premises and public clouds, with a single pane of glass.
  • Microsoft is also launching the open-source Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) server available now for Azure Stack Hub and Azure Stack Edge. Customers can now quickly connect existing data sources such as electronic health record systems or research databases at the edge while addressing compliance and regulatory requirements.
  • Finally, now available on GitHub, manufacturing customers can get started with an AI solution at the edge that combines the power of Azure Stack Hub and Azure Stack Edge with computer vision to modernize a factory floor.

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack Hub updates will simplify fleet and resource management and enable graphic-heavy scenarios
New Azure Stack Hub updates will simplify fleet and resource management, and enable accelerated machine learning scenarios, virtual desktop infrastructure and other graphics-heavy scenarios with GPUs:

  • Azure Stack Hub Fleet Management (private preview): Azure Stack Hub fleet management gives customers a single view and management method from Azure for all their Azure Stack Hub deployments.
  • ManagedIQ (CloudForms) (public preview): ManagedIQ, formerly known as CloudForms, now allows cloud operators to manage their resources on Azure Stack Hub and use RedHat technical tooling to manage the Azure Stack Hub. ManagedIQ is a supported platform from IBM and RedHat.
  • AKS Resource Provider on Azure Stack (private preview): The Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Resource Provider (RP) on Azure Stack Hub is a fully managed service for easily managing containerized applications for customers to automatically create and manage Kubernetes clusters on Azure
    Stack Hub.
  • GPU Partitioning using AMD GPUs (private preview): Graphics processing
    unit (GPU) partitioning for visualization using AMD GPUs on Azure Stack
    Hub is now available, enabling virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and other
    graphics-heavy scenarios on Azure Stack Hub.

Support for Windows containers Azure Container Networking Interface on Azure Stack Hub coming soon

Windows containers and Azure Container Networking Interface in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) engine deployed Kubernetes clusters will soon be in private preview.
The Azure Container Networking Interface plug-in lets you deploy and manage your own Kubernetes clusters with native Azure networking capability by default. This release, which will come as an update to the Azure Kubernetes Service engine, expands the capabilities of Kubernetes clusters on Azure Stack Hub.

Azure Stack Hub supports cross-platform compatibility on PowerShell

Azure Stack Hub now supports cross-platform compatibility on PowerShell and ensures hybrid consistency with Azure. Azure Stack Hub will utilize Az modules with new resource providers from Azure IoT Hub, Azure Stack Edge, and EventHub. This enables full cross-compatibility with Azure and Azure Stack Hub using PowerShell and PowerShell Core. Install PowerShell and connect to Azure Stack Hub on MacOs. This is available through the Az PowerShell installer.