Cloud Platform Release Announcements for September 16, 2015

This is a blog post of a new ongoing series of consolidated updates from the Cloud Platform team.

In today’s mobile first, cloud first world, Microsoft provides the technologies and tools to enable enterprises to embrace a cloud culture. Our differentiated innovations, comprehensive mobile solutions and developer tools help all of our customers realize the true potential of the cloud first era.

You expect cloud-speed innovation from us, and we’re delivering across the breadth of our Cloud Platform product portfolio. Below is a consolidated list of our latest releases to help you stay current, with links to additional details if you’d like more information. In this update:

  • Consumer identity and access management in the cloud: Azure Active Directory B2C
  • Share resources with your partners with B2B collaboration
  • Enable easier configuration management from the cloud
  • Azure Backup IaaS VM Protection Generally Available
  • Cloud Platform System Update 2 Generally Available
  • Power BI Content Pack Generally Available
  • Revolution R Open 3.2.2 Generally Available
  • Azure SQL Database – Web & Business Retirement
  • Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2015 Generally Available
  • Windows 10 Tools 1.1 Generally Available


Consumer identity and access management in the cloud: Azure Active Directory B2C

Azure Active Directory, the secure cloud identity platform that handles billions of authentications per day, extends its capabilities to manage consumer identities with a new service: Azure Active Directory B2C, now in public preview. Active Directory B2C is a highly available, global, identity management service for consumer-facing applications that scales to hundreds of millions of identities. It can be easily integrated across mobile and web platforms. Your consumers can log on to all your applications through fully customizable experiences by using their existing social accounts or by creating new credentials.

Learn more about Azure AD B2C.

Share resources with your partners with B2B collaboration

B2B collaboration, a new feature of Azure Active Directory, currently in public preview, simplifies management and improves security of partner access to corporate resources including SaaS apps such as Office 365, Salesforce and more, Azure Services and every mobile, cloud and on-premises claims-aware application.

B2B collaboration improves security, as partners manage their own accounts and enterprises can apply security policies to partner identities access.

Azure Active Directory B2B collaboration is easy to configure with simplified signup for partners of all sizes even if they don’t have their own Azure AD via an email-verified process. It is also easy to maintain with no external directories or per partner federation configurations.

Make your Azure Active Directory the center of your cross-organization collaboration.

Azure Active Directory B2B collaboration will be provided at no additional cost with all Azure AD editions.

Learn more about Azure AD B2B collaboration.

Enable easier configuration management from the cloud

A new breed of configuration management tools has been created to manage applications, platforms and cloud infrastructure, with high availability. The need for these new tools arises from the increase in scale and rapid rate of change, provided by the cloud environments. Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) provides a configuration management platform that is flexible enough to function reliably and consistently in each stage of the software deployment lifecycle, as well as during scale-out scenarios, required in the cloud.

Today with Azure Automation Desired State Configuration (DSC), we take it one step further providing an even easier configuration management experience. You can now author and manage PowerShell Desired State Configurations, import DSC resources, and generate DSC node configurations, all in the cloud. Available in public preview, Automation DSC is offered in free and basic tiers, and will be included in the Microsoft Operations Management Suite add-on when the service becomes generally available. For more information, visit the Azure Automation DSC Overview webpage.

Azure Backup IaaS VM Protection Generally Available

Azure Backup can perform online backups of Azure IaaS Windows and Linux VMs, and restore them as needed. You can use PowerShell to do backups, restores, monitor jobs, alert on job failures and generate  reports. You can retain copies of your applications and data for years to meet regulatory requirements.

In addition to protecting Azure IaaS VMs, Azure Backup can protect data on your corporate laptops and in your datacenter. Azure Backup protects Windows Clients data, and shared Files and Folders. With first class integration with SC DPM, Azure Backup can protect Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Hyper-V VMs and other application data.

Use of Backup for backing up IaaS VMs in Azure is currently charged at a 50% preview discount over regular list prices. On 10/16, pricing will switch to list prices.

Azure backup is now available through Microsoft Operations Management Suite – the all-in-one IT management solution for Windows or Linux, across on-premises or any cloud environments.

The Azure Backup web page will give you more details about the features and capabilities.

Cloud Platform System Update 2 Generally Available

Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS) Update 2 adds new capabilities and maintenance updates. With Update 2 it is now possible to leverage the Azure public cloud as recovery site for disaster recovery using Azure Site Recovery (ASR).

Update 2 includes additional backup options with Data Protection Manager (DPM) being used either on the CPS rack itself, an external DPM server in the same, or a remote data center allowing not only for off-stamp backups but also different media and backup retention times.

Security is always a key concern, and this is not different with CPS. In Update 2 we added the ability to encrypt data at rest using Bitlocker drive encryption to encrypt management, tenant, and backup data.

CPS has been evaluated for compliance with the most current FedRAMP Moderate baseline. Customers seeking FedRAMP certification can now use a precompiled System Security Plan (SSP) template and a Customer Responsibility Matrix (CRM) which provides a significant reduction in time, cost, and resources required by the process.

Updates to the software components as well as firmware updates round out this update pack.

CPS Update 2 will be available on September 29th, 2015 to all CPS customers. Learn more.

Power BI Content Pack Generally Available

Power BI continues to make it easier for users to connect to their data, providing pre-built solutions for popular services as part of the experience. This month we added content packs for tyGraph and Webtrends. tyGraph allows you to easily gain deeper insights into your Yammer data. Power BI allows you to analyze and monitor that data, by offering out-of-box content built from your tyGraph data. This content pack includes a dashboard, a set of reports and a curated dataset to explore and provide insights such as the Measure of Active Engagement (The MAE Score) and content consumption metrics such as File Views and File Downloads.

Webtrends helps companies make sense of their customer data to drive digital marketing success. Users have the ability to observe, analyze and deliver insights on the visitor journey across web, social, mobile and SharePoint channels. With the release of the Webtrends content pack, users will now have the ability to use Power BI to monitor, analyze, and visualize their Webtrends analytics data. The out-of-the-box content enables users to connect and begin to discover insights immediately.

Subscribers to these supported services can now quickly connect to their account from Power BI and see their data through live dashboards and interactive reports that have been pre-built for them. Getting started with data visualization and analysis has never been easier, for additional information visit the Power BI page.

Revolution R Open 3.2.2 Generally Available

Revolution R Open, the enhanced open source R distribution from Revolution Analytics and Microsoft, is now available for download. This update brings multithreaded performance to the latest update to the R engine from the R Core Group, which includes several improvements and bug fixes. Significant amongst these is default support for HTTPS connections, making it easy to follow the best practices for R security recommended by the R Consortium.

Revolution R Open uses a CRAN snapshot taken on August 27, 2015; you can review highlights of new and updated R packages introduced since RRO 3.2.1 at our Package Spotlight page. Don’t forget you can always use packages released after this date using the built-in checkpoint package or by using any CRAN mirror. (By the way, the checkpoint package also now downloads packages using HTTPS.)

RRO 3.2.2 is available for download now at the link below for Windows, Mac and Linux systems, and is 100% compatible with R 3.2.2. If you’re new to Revolution R Open, here are some tips to get started, and there are many data sources you can explore with RRO. As always, thanks go to the contributors to the R Project upon which RRO is built.

MRAN: Download Revolution R Open

Azure SQL Database Web and Business Retirement

On September 12, 2015 the Azure SQL Database Web and Business editions were retired in favor of our new Basic, Standard, and Premium database service tiers. The new tiers are designed to provide highly predictable performance and include features like point-in-time-restore and hourly billing that are not available in the Web and Business editions. With Azure SQL Database Update (V12), we introduced more performance than the previous version (V11), an extended T-SQL surface area, and more.

What is happening now:

  • Auto-upgrades of Web/Business database to Basic/Standard on V12 servers have started for customers that renewed their databases after September 12, 2014.
  • Customers with an enterprise agreement (EA) signed before September 12, 2014 will be able to continue to create Web/Business databases until the end of the agreement.
  • Customers with more than 30 databases customers will not be upgraded until 90 days after elastic database pools are GA.
  • Customers will receive a 14-day prior notification of the scheduled upgrade date.
  • S0 is the new default database on all server versions.
  • Starting in October, Web/Business CREATE DATABASE calls in T-SQL, PowerShell and REST APIs will result in S0 databases.
  • Starting in October, version 2 CREATE LOGICAL SERVER in PowerShell and REST APIs will result in version 12 servers.

Don’t wait, migrate yourself to the Basic, Standard, and Premium tiers and start taking advantage of the new benefits not available in Web and Business. Download our step-by-step guidance.

For more information, read the Azure Blog.

Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2015 Generally Available

The latest version of Visual Studio Tools for Applications 2015 provides support for Visual Studio 2015. VSTA lets you add and run customizations in applications that integrated with VSTA. The tools can work installed into Visual Studio or as a standalone tool. In standalone mode, end-user customizations can be loaded, compiled and run. Installing VSTA into Visual Studio provides the additional benefits of being able to edit and debug your customizations.

Windows 10 Tools 1.1 Generally Available

Windows 10 Tools 1.1 GA supports developers to create Universal Windows Platform apps using Visual Studio. This release includes the Windows 10 Tools bundle, remote tools, the Windows SDK and Emulator and other updates across the tool chain to support Windows 10 development in Visual Studio.