Cloud Platform Release Announcements for September 30, 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:

  • Power BI Content Pack comScore and Stripe GA
  • SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 2.4 Public Preview
  • Microsoft Intune September service update GA
  • Update for System Center Configuration PowerManager Technical Preview 3
  • Tools for Apache Cordova Update 2 GA
  • Recap of Strata + Hadoop Announcements
  • Recap of AzureCon Announcements

Power BI Content Pack comScore and Stripe GA

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 comScore Digital Analytix and Stripe. comScore Digital Analytix is an online solution that provides insights into your user base through the best of analytics and audience demographics. It provides visibility on how your customers use different media, such as TV, video, mobile, desktop and more. With the Power BI comScore content pack, you can quickly connect and begin gaining insights into your web analytics data. This content pack includes an out-of-the box dashboard, a set of reports, and a curated data set to help you explore and drill into your data.

Stripe is an online e-commerce solution that allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payment over the internet. Specifically Stripe focuses on providing the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure required to operate online payment systems. You can use the Power BI Stripe content pack to monitor, explore, and visualize your Stripe activity. The content pack allows you to easily connect to your data and begin to discover insights with the out-of-the box dashboard, reports, and curated data set.

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 blog.

SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 2.4 Public Preview

The SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2.4 is now available for download!  In SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4, part of our new rapid preview model, we have made enhancements to several features that customers can try in their SQL Server 2016 development and test environments. In SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4, available for download today, customers will see enhancements in several key areas:

  • SQL Server Smart Maintenance Plans for effective database maintenance
  • Tempdb scalability improvement
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) improvements, including design-time control over layout of report parameters, export to PowerPoint, and a new printing feature that works across modern browsers
  • SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) improvements, including complex data feed including Data Streaming destination

For additional details, please visit the detailed SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 Engineering blog post.

Talk to your customers about setting up a SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 preview test environment today! To experience the new, exciting features in SQL Server 2016 and the new rapid release model, download the preview or try the preview by using a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure and start evaluating the impact these new innovations can have for your business. 

Microsoft Intune September service update Generally Available

Between September 25 and October 5, a service update for Microsoft Intune will be released. New features and enhancements that will be made available as part of this service update include a new Windows 10-specific template for configuration policies, support for iOS managed application configuration policies, ability to deploy and install Windows Installer (MSI) apps on MDM enrolled Windows 10 devices, and more. For additional information, read the recent blog post on the Intune blog.

Update for System Center Configuration Manager Technical Preview 3

On September 23, we announced the availability of an update for System Center Configuration Manager Technical Preview 3. This update is the first to be delivered through our new “Updates and Servicing” node in the product. This update provides an early view of new Configuration Manager capabilities, including a unified portal experience for end users and the ability to deploy and test updates to the Configuration Manager client using a pre-production collection. For more details, read the blog post on the ConfigMgr team blog.

Tools for Apache Cordova Update 2 GA

We are excited to announce the release of TACO 1.0.0. With this release, we provide you with a set of command line utilities designed to make building hybrid apps using your web skills (HTML/JS/CSS) for Android, iOS, and Windows easy. It includes new features to simplify using Apache Cordova including automatically installing all project dependencies, introduces Kits for maintaining compatibility with the version of Cordova, contextual help, and simplifies remote access to a Mac during your development workflow.

Recap of Strata + Hadoop Announcements

  • In July of this year, Satya Nadella shared our broad vision for big data and analytics when he announced Cortana Analytics Suite. Expanding on this today we’re announcing a new Microsoft Azure Data Lake for big data in the cloud. At AzureCon and Strata + Hadoop World, we announced the expanded vision of Microsoft Azure Data Lake:
    • Azure Data Lake Store, previously announced as Azure Data Lake, will be available in preview later this year. The Data Lake Store provides a single repository where you can capture data of any size, type and speed simply without forcing changes to your application as the data scales. In the store, your data is accessible from any HDFS application and tool.
    • Azure Data Lake Analytics, a new distributed analytics service built on Apache YARN that allows developers to be productive immediately on big data.  Focus on your business logic, not on distributed infrastructure while the service dynamically scales to meet your business needs. This service will be available in preview later this year. Along with the service, we are excited to introduce, U-SQL, a new big data language that seamlessly unifies the ease of use of SQL starting with the expressive power of C#.
    • Azure HDInsight, our fully-managed Apache Hadoop cluster service will be integrated into the Azure Data Lake analytics service in the near future to provide a unified experience. On 9/28, we are announcing general availability of managed clusters on Linux with an industry-leading SLA.
  • Cortana Analytics Suite – Available to Purchase on September 29: Cortana Analytics Suite is a fully managed big data and advanced analytics suite that enables you to transform your data into intelligent action. It is a comprehensive suite that brings together technologies throughout Microsoft and provides fast and flexible deployment with a simple monthly subscription to reduce the time and cost. It includes cloud services for Information management, data storage, analytics and visualization. The suite will be available to purchase on 9/29. Cortana Analytics Suite helps you take action ahead of your competitors by going beyond looking in the rear-view mirror to predicting what’s next. Enhance your business applications with machine intelligence to evolve from simple descriptive analytics to prescriptive recommendations. To find out more, visit the Cortana Analytics Suite page.

Recap of AzureCon Announcements

  • Upcoming availability of Microsoft Azure Security Center: Azure Security Center helps you prevent, detect and respond to threats with increased visibility and control over the security of all your Azure resources. It provides a central view of security across your subscriptions, and enables you to set policies and monitor security configurations. Policy-driven recommendations guide resource owners through the process of implementing security controls and enable rapid deployment of integrated Microsoft and partner security solutions. Security-related events from across your Azure deployments are automatically collected and analyzed using Microsoft global threat intelligence and expertise to identify actual threats and reduce false alarms. The resulting real-time alerts offer insights into the attack campaign and suggest ways to remediate and recover quickly. No other public cloud provider offers this combination of integrated visibility, control, and advanced detection. Azure Security Center is in private preview now. To learn more, view the AzureCon session here.
  • Microsoft Azure Mobile Engagement Generally Available: Now generally available, Azure Mobile Engagement is a user engagement platform that enables real-time fine-grain user segmentation, app user analytics, and contextually-aware smart push notifications across all connected devices. You will be able to maximize your app usage, retention and monetization with this powerful platform and get directly in touch with app users in a personal, contextually-aware and non-intrusive way, exactly when it makes the most sense for both parties. Comprehensive analytics go beyond typical KPIs, highlighting what data to capture, track, analyze and act upon to improve engagement precisely when customers need your products or services. To learn more, visit Azure Mobile Engagement.
  • Microsoft Azure File Storage Generally Available: Announcing today general availability of Azure File Storage which is based on industry standard SMB 3.0. It is a highly available, and geo replicated managed file share offering on Azure at very low cost. With SMB 3.0 customers get persistent and secure connection with applications from both on premises and cloud. Customers can now lift and shift existing file share and corresponding applications to Azure with zero code change and lower overall File sharing cost compared to running it on premises. Azure File can be used to share server data (such as log files, event data) that can be accessed from both on-premises and cloud. Customers can use Azure File to store high availability workload data (e.g. SQL Server fail over clustering instance, IIS share configuration). Finally, developers can use rich restful APIs inside their modern applications to access File data and management layer. For more information, please visit Azure File Storage.
  • Deploy your App Service Environment to production with the confidence of a SLA: In April, we announced a new capability for Azure App Service, the App Service Environment, as part of the App Service Premium Plan. While the App Service Premium Plan remains in Public Preview, we are now backing the App Service Environment capability with the same SLA as our GA App Services so you can deploy your App Service Environments to production. An App Service Environment provides a fully isolated and dedicated environment for securely running all of your apps including Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps and Logic Apps. An App Service Environment is always created inside of a regional virtual network. This enables apps to securely connect to other endpoints accessible only inside of a virtual network, including endpoints connected via Site-to-Site and ExpressRoute connections. It also enables an App Service Environment to be secured behind upstream appliances, firewalls and network SaaS providers. For more information, please see the blog post, Introducing App Service Environment, and visit the Azure App Service site.
  • Microsoft Azure SQL Database Elastic Database lowered pricing: We are delighted at the wide Database variety of customer app scenarios being deployed in Elastic Database Pools during the preview. Based on this feedback, we are happy to announce a restructuring of the pricing to address these additional scenarios. Elastic database pools provide allocated performance to a pool, and allow you to pay for the collective performance of the pool, rather than single database performance. You don’t need to dial database performance up or down. Elastic databases consume but don’t exceed the limits of the pool, so your cost remains predictable even if database usage doesn’t. The following changes go into effect today:
    • eDTU price – The preview price you pay today for eDTUs will be the price you pay at general availability.
    • Database existence fee – To make elastic database pools more flexible, we are eliminating the database existence fee.
    • For more information, visit the SQL Database pricing page.
  • Microsoft Azure IoT Hub in Public Preview: Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, now in public preview, provides capabilities for securely connecting, provisioning, updating and sending commands to devices. IoT Hub enables companies to control millions of IoT assets running on a broad set of operating systems and protocols to jumpstart their Internet of Things projects. IoT Hub is available as a standalone service or as part of Azure IoT Suite. IoT Hub enables companies to:
    • Establish reliable bi-directional communication with IoT assets, even if they are intermittently connected, so companies can analyze incoming telemetry data and send commands and notifications as needed.
    • Enhance security of IoT solutions by leveraging per-device authentication to communicate with devices with the appropriate credentials.
    • Revoke access rights to specific devices, if needed, to maintain the integrity of the system.

  • For details and pricing for Azure IoT Hub please visit the IoT site.
  • Introducing the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite: The Internet of Things (IoT) is here today and begins with the things that matters most to your company. Now available to purchase, the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite enables you to connect your devices, so you can capture and analyze untapped data across your business. With preconfigured solutions designed to address common IoT scenarios, you can quickly and confidently get started on your IoT projects, then scale them broadly. Learn how the Azure IoT Suite can help you get started with IoT today.
  • Live Encoding for Microsoft Azure Media Services now generally available: With Live Encoding for Azure Media services you now have access to the technology that powered the digital coverage of some of the largest events on the planet. Live Encoding for Azure Media Services expands on the industry-proven live cloud platform. It can be combined with dynamic packaging, dynamic encryption, sub-clipping, dynamic manifest manipulation, ad-marker insertion, and near-seamless live/on-demand capabilities to build comprehensive live and cloud DVR workflows. Common use cases include event-based streaming with dynamic ad insertion, plus streaming with cloud DVR requirements. Features include:
    • Live encoding of a single bitrate live feed into an adaptive bitrate stream
    • Ability to ingest a live feed over RTP protocol (MPEG transport streams), RTMP and Smooth Streaming
    • Ability to control insertion of slates and to signal ad insertions to the client
    • Thumbnail previews of the live feed
    • For more information, please read the blog post, An introduction to Live Encoding with Azure Media Services, and visit the Azure Media Services site.
  • Announcing the new Microsoft Azure Container Service, with preview later this year: Earlier this year we announced Azure’s support for the Mesosphere Datacenter Operating System (DCOS) that spans all of the machines in your datacenter or cloud, providing a highly elastic, and highly scalable way of deploying applications, services and big data infrastructure on shared resources. This support expanded the options for container deployment and orchestrations solutions on Azure. The new Azure Container Service will combine the proven flexibility of Apache Mesos and Mesosphere DCOS with the hyper-scale and enterprise-grade Azure cloud to offer an open, easy to use Docker-based container orchestration service. For the first time in the public cloud, System Administrators and Developers will be able to easily deploy and configure a Mesos container cluster as a managed and supported service using the power and ease of Azure Resource Manager. Customers will be able to deploy and orchestrate Dockerized applications in Azure in an identical way as they do on-premises or on other clouds, but on a fully managed and scaling infrastructure service in Azure.
  • Upcoming availability of Microsoft Azure Resource Health: Today we are pre-announcing Azure Resource health, a new service to be available in the Azure Preview portal that exposes the health of each of Azure resources (e.g. virtual machines, websites and SQL Databases) to help customers quickly identify the root cause of the problem. Based on the root cause, it provides actionable guidance and tooling to solve the issues, including the option to submit a support ticket. Azure Resource health will be available for public preview in October.
  • Azure Reserved Compute Pricing is a new pricing program designed to compete with AWS one-year reserved instances. It provides customers with discounts up to 63% on compute instances in Azure for an upfront pre-purchase of 12 months of a particular instance (a particular instance family, size, region, and OS). The offer is optimal for customers with steady state, predictable workloads and clear line of sight into the amount of compute they need. It is targeted to become programmatic with the December 1 price list.
  • Microsoft Azure generally available from three new India regions: Central India (Pune), South India (Chennai), and West India (Mumbai). This marks the beginning of Microsoft Cloud service availability for India customers from local data centers in India. Office 365 services are slated for availability in October, with Dynamics CRM Online services to follow in the first half of 2016.  With 24 Azure regions around the world – more than any other major cloud provider – this latest expansion is further proof of Microsoft’s commitment to expanding its cutting-edge cloud infrastructure around the world. Built on foundational principles of security, privacy and control, compliance, and transparency, the Microsoft Cloud delivers trusted cloud services to enable individuals and organizations to achieve more. Please note that access to the India regions is currently available only to volume licensing customers and partners with a local enrollment in India.
  • Microsoft Azure N–series – new GPU enabled Virtual Machines: We also announced the N-series, a new family of Azure Virtual Machines that enable GPU capabilities. GPUs have long been used for compute and graphics intensive workloads and we’re excited to bring the power of GPUs to Azure featuring NVidia’s best of breed Tesla GPUs, these Virtual Machines will help customers run a variety of workloads ranging from remote visualization to machine learning to analytics. We expect to preview the N-series within the next few months.
  • Announcing Financial Services Compliance Program: The Financial Services Industry is among the most regulated sectors on the planet. In order to make it easier for Financial Institutions to adopt Azure, Microsoft is excited to announce a new compliance program that has been highly customized to the needs of this industry. The program is aligned to the global oversight and risk management requirements of Financial Services customers and their regulators. Program participants are able to access Azure audit reports and supporting evidence, as well as gain exclusive access to customized events and webcasts. Participating Financial Institutions will have direct access to Azure’s security and compliance engineering teams and Microsoft extends these benefits directly to customers’ designated regulators. For more details on the program, please see the AzureCon Financial Services Industry breakout session and contact your Microsoft account representative for more information.
  • Announcing availability of DV2, the next generation of D-series: DV2-series instances are the next generation of D-series instances that can be used as Virtual Machines or Cloud Services. Based on the latest generation 2.4 GHz Intel Xeon® E5-2673 v3 (Haswell) processors, DV2-series instances carry about 35% faster CPUs than the current D-series instances. They feature the same memory and disk configurations as the D-series, and are ideal for applications that demand faster CPUs, better local disk performance, or higher memories for many enterprise-grade applications. For more details on DV2 instances, please visit here.
  • ExpressRoute for Office 365 GA: Azure ExpressRoute enables you to easily extend your IT infrastructure to Azure using private, dedicated, high bandwidth connections that bypass the Internet. With ExpressRoute for Office 365, you are able to access Office 365 using ExpressRoute just like Azure and gain performance and privacy improvements in your connectivity. With GA, ExpressRoute for Office 365 provides an uptime SLA of 99.9%. Many of the ExpressRoute are supporting this capability today – Verizon, BT, AT&T, Equinix, Telecity and Tata Communications. In the near future, we look forward to more partners enabling O365 connectivity via ExpressRoute.
  • New pricing plans for ExpressRoute: Effective October 1, 2015, you will have two different data plans that you can choose for your ExpressRoute connections. Irrespective of whether you use an Exchange Provider or a Network Service Provider, you can choose the “Unlimited” or the “Metered” data plans. The unlimited data plan allows you to transfer unlimited amount of data for a fixed monthly charge, whereas the metered plan charges you a small monthly connection fee with pay as you charges. Relative to the prior model where pricing plans were tied to the service provider, these plans provide more flexibility in choosing the right plan based on your data usage. For more details, refer here.
  • Price reductions on A8-A11 instances: As part of our commitment to save you costs whenever we can, we’re reducing prices of A8, A9, A10 and A11 instances by as much as 60%. These instances carry the powerful Intel Xeon E5 processors and are suitable for compute intensive workloads like high-performance clusters, modeling and simulations, video encoding, and other compute or network intensive scenarios. The new prices will be effective October 1st, 2015. Please visit the Virtual Machines pricing page for pricing details.