Azure IaaS and Azure Stack: announcements and updates (December 2019 – Weeks: 49 and 50)

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 Dedicated Hosts now generally available

Azure Dedicated Host provides a single-tenant physical server to host your Azure virtual machines for Windows and Linux. The server capacity is not shared with other customers. As a result, you can run general purpose, memory intensive or compute intensive workloads in a hardware-isolated and virtualized server environment dedicated to your organization. With Azure Dedicated Host, you can address specific compliance requirements while increasing visibility and control over your underlying infrastructure.

General Availability of Proximity Placement Groups

Azure proximity placement groups, now in General Availability,  enable customers to achieve co-location of Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) resources with low network latency.

Azure Spot VMs in Preview

Azure Spot VMs let you access unused Azure compute capacity at deep discounts compared to pay-as-you-go VM prices. Spot VMs are ideal for workloads that can be interrupted, providing scalability while reducing costs. You get unique Azure pricing and benefits when running Windows Server workloads on Spot VMs.
You can take advantage of Spot VM pricing for Azure VMs or VM scale sets (VMSS). Select the right deployment model based on your preferences and the characteristics of your application. Like their low-priority VMs predecessors, Spot VMs are engineered to run workloads that don’t need to be completed within a specific timeframe.

New bot protection rule in preview for Web Application Firewall with Azure Front Door service

A new bot protection ruleset is in preview for Azure Web Application Firewall with Azure Front Door service. Adding to this updated ruleset are three bot categories: good, bad, and unknown. There are multiple bot groups within each category. Bot signatures are managed and dynamically updated by Web Application Firewall service. The default action for bad bot groups is set to Block, for the verified search engine crawlers group it’s set to Allow, and for the unknown bot category it’s set to Log. Customers may overwrite the default action with Allow, Block, Log, or Redirect for any type of bot groups. 

Maintenance control for platform updates in preview

The preview of a maintenance control feature for Azure Virtual Machines gives more control to customers with highly sensitive workloads for platform maintenance, running on an Azure Dedicated Host or an Isolated VM, where the underlying physical server runs a single customer’s workload. This feature is not supported for VMs deployed in hosts shared with other customers. Using this feature, customers can control all impactful host updates, including rebootless updates, for up to 35 days.

Azure Private Link support in AKS is in preview

AKS now supports Azure Private Link in public preview. With Azure Private Link in AKS, customers can interact with the Kubernetes API server as a private endpoint in their virtual network, ensuring that all Kubernetes management operations remain completely isolated. Because Private Link provides private connectivity from the customer’s virtual network to the Azure-managed Kubernetes control plane, customers can still get all the benefits of AKS but in an even more secure configuration.

Application Gateway Ingress Controller for Azure Kubernetes Service

A new solution to bind Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Application Gateway. This new solution provides an open source Application Gateway Ingress Controller (AGIC) for Kubernetes, which makes it possible for AKS customers to leverage Application Gateway to expose their cloud software to the Internet. Bringing together the benefits of the Azure Kubernetes Service, our managed Kubernetes service, which makes it easy to operate advanced Kubernetes environments and Azure Application Gateway, our native, scalable, and highly available, L7 load balancer has been highly requested by our customers.

HC-Series VMs are now available in South Central US

HC-Series Hi Performance Computing VMs now available in South Central US

Azure Cost Management updates

New updates to Azure Cost Management help you manage costs for cloud solution provider (CSP) subscriptions, build better dashboards by customizing tile names, save money with Azure reservations for 16 different services, along with additional enhancements.

Azure Migrate: Agentless dependency analysis is now available in preview

Azure Migrate now supports agentless dependency analysis in a limited preview. The dependency data is discovered remotely by the Azure Migrate appliance without the installation of any agent or script on virtual machines. This feature is currently available only for VMware servers.

Microsoft plans to establish new cloud datacenter region in Qatar

Microsoft recently announced plans to establish a new cloud datacenter region in Qatar to deliver its intelligent, trusted cloud services and expand the Microsoft global cloud infrastructure to 55 cloud regions in 20 countries. he new region is anticipated to be available starting with Microsoft Azure in 2021, and Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to follow.

Azure File Sync agent v9.1

Improvements and issues that are fixed:

  • Self-service restore support: users can now restore their files by using the previous version feature. Prior to the v9 release, the previous version feature was not supported on volumes that had cloud tiering enabled. This feature must be enabled for each volume separately, on which an endpoint with cloud tiering enabled exists. 
  • Support for larger file share sizes: Azure File Sync now supports up to 64TiB and 100 million files in a single, syncing namespace.
  • Data Deduplication support on Server 2019: Data Deduplication is now supported with cloud tiering enabled on Windows Server 2019. To support Data Deduplication on volumes with cloud tiering, Windows update KB4520062 must be installed.
  • Improved minimum file size for a file to tier: The minimum file size for a file to tier is now based on the file system cluster size (double the file system cluster size). For example, by default, the NTFS file system cluster size is 4KB, the resulting minimum file size for a file to tier is 8KB.
  • Network connectivity test cmdlet: As part of Azure File Sync configuration, multiple service endpoints must be contacted. They each have their own DNS name that needs to be accessible to the server. These URLs are also specific to the region a server is registered to. Once a server is registered, the connectivity test cmdlet (PowerShell and Server Registration Utility) can be used to test communications with all URLs specific to this server. This cmdlet can help troubleshoot when incomplete communication prevents the server from fully working with Azure File Sync and it can be used to fine tune proxy and firewall configurations.
    • To run the network connectivity test, run the following PowerShell commands:
      • Import-Module “<SyncAgentInstallPath>\StorageSync.Management.ServerCmdlets.dll”
      • Test-StorageSyncNetworkConnectivity
  • Remove server endpoint improvement when cloud tiering is enabled: As before, removing a server endpoint does not result in removing files in the Azure file share. However, behavior for reparse points on the local server has changed. Reparse points (pointers to files that are not local on the server) are now deleted when removing a server endpoint. The fully cached files will remain on the server. This improvement was made to prevent orphaned tiered files when removing a server endpoint. If the server endpoint is recreated, the reparse points for the tiered files will be recreated on the server.
  • Performance and reliability improvements
    • Reduced recall failures. Recall size is now automatically adjusted based on network bandwidth.
    • Improved download performance when adding a new server to a sync group.
    • Reduced files not syncing due to constraint conflicts.

Installation instructions are documented in KB4522360.

Azure Stack

Microsoft has validated the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 edge server for Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft and Lenovo have teamed up to validate the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 for Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI program. The ThinkSystem SE350 was designed and built with the unique requirements of edge servers in mind. It is versatile enough to stretch the limitations of server locations, providing a variety of connectivity and security options and can be easily managed with Lenovo XClarity Controller. The ThinkSystem SE350 solution has a focus on smart connectivity, business security, and manageability for the harsh environment.

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