Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (September 2018 – Weeks: 38 and 39)

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.


Virtual machine serial console

The Azure virtual machine serial console is now generally available in all public regions. New features include magic SysRq keys, non-maskable interrupts, and subscription-wide enable/disable. More details are available in the documentation for Windows and Linux.


Immutable storage for Azure Storage Blobs

Financial services organizations regulated by SEC, CFTC, FINRA, IIROC, FCA, etc., are required to retain business-related communications in a Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) or immutable state to ensure that they’re non-erasable and non-modifiable for a specific retention interval. The immutable storage requirement is not limited to financial organizations. It also applies to industries such as healthcare, insurance, media, public safety, and legal services.

To address this requirement, immutable storage for Azure Blob storage is now generally available in all Azure public regions. Through configurable policies, users can keep Azure Blob storage data in an immutable state where blobs can be created and read, but not modified or deleted.

For more details on the feature, see the Microsoft Azure blog.


Azure Premium Blob Storage (preview)

Azure Blob Storage introduces a new performance tier—Premium Blog Storage, complimenting the existing hot, cool, and archive tiers. Data in Premium Blob Storage is stored on solid-state drives, which are known for lower latency and higher transactional rates compared to traditional hard drives. Premium Blob Storage is ideal for workloads that require very fast access times. This includes most scenarios with a human in the loop, such as interactive video editing, static web content, and online transactions. It also works well for workloads that perform many transactions that are relatively small, such as capturing telemetry data, message passing, and data transformation.


Azure Availability Zones in West US 2 and North Europe

Azure Availability Zones, a high-availability solution for mission-critical applications, is now generally available in West US 2 and North Europe.

Availability Zones are physically separate locations within an Azure region. Each Availability Zone consists of one or more datacenters equipped with independent power, cooling, and networking. With the introduction of Availability Zones, we now offer a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.99% for uptime of virtual machines.

Availability Zones are generally available in select regions.


Public IP prefix (preview)

A Public IP prefix is a reserved range of static IP addresses that can be assigned to your subscription. You can use a prefix to simplify IP address management in Azure. Knowledge of the range ahead of time eliminates the need to change firewall rules as you assign IP addresses to new resources. This predictability significantly reduces management overhead when scaling in Azure.

For more information about Public IP prefixes in Azure and how to use them, see Public IP Prefix.


Virtual network peering across Azure Active Directory tenants

Virtual network peering enables direct VM-to-VM connectivity across virtual machines deployed in different virtual networks using the Microsoft backbone. Virtual network peering is now available for virtual networks that belong to subscriptions in different Azure Active Directory tenants.


Azure Load Balancer: Outbound Rules for Standard Load Balance GA

This new ability allows you to declare which public IP or public IP prefix should be used for outbound connectivity from your virtual network, and how outbound network address translations should be scaled and tuned.


Azure Load Balancer TCP resets on idle (preview)

Azure Load Balancer supports sending of bidirectional TCP resets on idle timeout for load balancing rules, inbound NAT rules, and outbound rules. For more information, including pricing details, please visit the Azure Load Balancer TCP reset page.


ExpressRoute Direct 100Gbps connectivity

ExpressRoute Direct provides 100G connectivity for customers with extreme bandwidth needs. This is 10x faster than other clouds. With ExpressRoute Direct you can send 100 Gbps of network traffic to Azure services such as Azure Storage and Azure Virtual Networks. All your traffic can be on a single 100G ExpressRoute Circuit or you subdivide 100G among your business units in any combination of 40G, 10G, 5G, 2G, and 1G ExpressRoute circuits.


ExpressRoute Global Reach

ExpressRoute Global Reach allows you to connect two ExpressRoute circuits together. Your sites that are already connected to ExpressRoute can now privately exchange data via their ExpressRoute circuits. ExpressRoute Global Reach can be enabled on both ExpressRoute Standard and ExpressRoute Premium circuits. ExpressRoute Global Reach is available in the following locations: Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States with Korea and Singapore coming soon. More locations will be available later this year.


Zone-Redundant VPN and ExpressRoute Virtual Network Gateways

To improve the resiliency, scalability and availability of gateways, Zone Redundant VPN and ExpressRoute Gateways bring support for Azure Availability Zones. With these new Zone-Redundant/Zonal Gateways, you will be able to deploy Azure VPN and Azure ExpressRoute gateways in Azure Availability Zones, thus making them physically and logically separate within a region to protect your on-premises network connectivity to Azure from zone-level failures.


Azure Firewall: General availability and new capabilities

Azure Firewall, now GA, offers fully stateful network and application level traffic filtering for VNet resources, with built-in high availability and cloud scalability delivered as a service. For more information, please refer to Azure Firewall documentation.


Shared Image Gallery (public preview)

Shared Image Gallery provides an Azure-based solution to make the custom management of virtual machine (VM) images easier in Azure. Shared Image Gallery provides a simple way to share your applications with others in your organization, within or across regions, enabling you to expedite regional expansion or DevOps processes, simplify your cross-region HA/DR setup and more. Shared Image Gallery also enables you to quickly deploy thousands of VMs concurrently from a custom image.


Automatic OS image upgrade in virtual machine scale sets is now generally available.

After you enable this feature for your scale sets, when a new OS image is published with the latest features, security patches, and performance improvements, your scale sets and Azure Service Fabric clusters can receive these updates automatically. The new image will roll out to the VMs in your scale sets in batches based on preconfigured health probes to check for application issues. You can monitor the status of upgrades programmatically or through an out-of-the-box experience in the Azure portal. To learn more about this capability and to start enabling it for your VMs in VM scale sets, see this documentation.


Azure Virtual Machine Image Builder available in private preview

Azure Virtual Machine (VM) Image Builder, now available in private preview, allows you to migrate your image building pipeline to Azure. Submit a template describing your VM source image and customizations, indicate where to distribute a bootable image, and then start building your VM images.


Ultra SSD, a new Azure Managed Disks offering (preview)

Ultra SSD, a new Azure Managed Disks offering for your most demanding data-intensive workloads, is now available in preview. Ultra SSDs can deliver unprecedented and extremely scalable performance with sub-millisecond latency:

  • Choose a disk size from 4 GiB up to 64 TiB.
  • Achieve the optimal performance you need per disk even at low storage capacities.
  • Scale performance up to 160,000* IOPS and 2 GB/s per disk with zero downtime.


Azure Stack

Service Fabric now available on Azure Stack

Azure Service Fabric is now available on Azure Stack. Service Fabric is a distributed systems platform that makes it easy to package, deploy, and manage scalable and reliable microservices and containers.


Red Hat OpenShift and Microsoft Azure Stack together for hybrid enterprise solutions

OpenShift and Azure Stack present exciting new options for customers who use Microsoft and Red Hat technologies and offer the greatest possible flexibility and consistency where these solutions are run and managed – whether its in the public cloud or on-premises with Azure Stack. OpenShift and Azure Stack enable a consistent application experience across Azure, Azure Stack, bare-metal, Windows and RHEL bringing together Microsoft’s and Red Hat’s developer frameworks and partner ecosystems.

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