Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (February 2023 – Weeks: 05 and 06)

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.



New planned datacenter region in Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia Central)

Microsoft will establish a new datacenter region in the country, offering organizations in Saudi Arabia local data residency and faster access to the cloud, delivering advanced data security and cloud solutions. The new datacenter region will also include Availability Zones, providing customers with high availability and additional tolerance to datacenter failures.

Azure Kubernetes Service introduces two pricing tiers: Free and Standard

To better communicate the benefits and use cases for the two control plane management options, today, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is introducing two pricing tiers: Free tier and Standard tier. Previously, few customers were aware of the uptime SLA support, and many did not have the uptime SLA feature enabled for critical production workload. With the Standard tier, Microsoft hopes to help increase customer awareness and allow customers to gain the full benefits of the Standard tier for production workload to minimize disruption.

AKS’s unique Free tier allows you to only pay for the virtual machines, and associated storage and networking resources consumed, and you get the managed Kubernetes control plane for free. This allows you to deploy unlimited free test clusters to decide if AKS is right for your needs and allows you to configure and test your infrastructure set-up before running critical production workloads. The Free tier is recommended for clusters with less than 10 nodes and for experimenting, learning, and simple testing.

The new Standard tier is the recommended control plane management pricing option which comes with greater control plane resources, scalability and the existing uptime SLA support. Customers currently signed up for the uptime SLA support will automatically be moved to the Standard tier with no change in cost or action needed. Standard tier not only includes the uptime SLA, but it will also include additional features such as support for up to 5000 nodes per cluster and API server autoscaling.

Microsoft Azure Load Testing is now Generally Available

Azure Load Testing is a fully managed load-testing service that enables you to generate high-scale load, gain actionable insights, and ensure the resiliency of your applications and services. The service simulates traffic for your applications, regardless of where they’re hosted. Developers, testers, and quality assurance (QA) engineers can use it to optimize application performance, scalability, or capacity.

Trusted launch for Azure VMs in Azure for US Government regions

Trusted launch for Azure virtual machines is available in all Azure for US Government regions: US Gov Virginia, US Gov Arizona US Gov Texas, US DoD East, US DoD Central. Trusted launch for Azure VMs allows you to bolster the security posture of an Azure Virtual Machine.


Azure File Sync agent v16

The Azure File Sync agent v16 release is being flighted to servers which are configured to automatically update when a new version becomes available.

Improvements and issues that are fixed:

  • Improved Azure File Sync service availability: Azure File Sync is now a zone-redundant service which means an outage in a zone has limited impact while improving the service resiliency to minimize customer impact. To fully leverage this improvement, configure your storage accounts to use zone-redundant storage (ZRS) or Geo-zone redundant storage (GZRS) replication.
  • Sync upload performance improvements: this improvement will mainly benefit file share migrations (initial upload) and high churn events on the server in which a large number of files need to be uploaded.
  • Immediately run server change enumeration to detect files changes that were missed on the server.
  • Miscellaneous reliability and telemetry improvements for cloud tiering and sync.

To obtain and install this update, configure your Azure File Sync agent to automatically update when a new version becomes available or manually download the update from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

More information about this release:

  • This release is available for Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server 2022 installations.
  • The agent version for this release is
  • Installation instructions are documented in KB5013877.

Azure storage access tiers to append blobs and page blobs with blob type conversion

Azure Storage offers different access tiers so that you can store your blob data in the most cost-effective manner based on how it’s being used. Azure Storage access tiers include hot tier, cool tier, and archive tier. Azure Storage access tiers support only block blobs natively. When you need to save cost of storing append blobs or page blobs, you can convert them to block blobs then move them into the most cost-efficient tiers based on your access patterns. Blob type conversion along with tiering is now supported by PowerShell, CLI and AzCopy.

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