Cloud Platform Release Announcements for April 27, 2016

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:

  • Windows Server 2016 | TP5
  • System Center 2016 | TP5
  • Azure Cool Blob Storage | GA
  • EA support offer | Available to purchase
  • PHP 7 support in Azure Web Apps | GA
  • Virtual Network BGP with Azure Virtual Network VPN Gateways | GA
  • Resources for IT Pros to build their careers in cloud technology | GA – IT Pro Cloud Essentials and Career Center
  • Azure Container Service | GA
  • Media Analytics | Public
  • Visual Studio Code | GA
  • Xamarin product announcements at Evolve | Xamarin Evolve announcements
  • Power BI Desktop | GA
  • Power BI service | GA
  • Azure SQL Database – Active Geo DR for Basic and Standard Service Tiers | GA
  • Azure Machine Learning | HIPAA and EU Model Clauses Compliance and ISO 27001
  • Azure Machine Learning | PP – Azure ML in Black Forest (Germany)
  • SQL Server 2016 | RC 3
  • Intune MAM capabilities for the RMS sharing app on Android | GA

Windows Server 2016 | TP5

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 is now available

Windows Server 2016 is the cloud-ready operating system that delivers new layers of security and Azure-inspired innovation for the applications and infrastructure that power your business. Try it and see for yourself how Windows Server 2016 can help you:

  • Reduce business risk with new layers of security built into the operating system
  • Drive datacenter efficiency with software-defined compute, storage and networking
  • Innovate faster with Windows Server and Hyper-V containers, Nano Server, and more

Learn more:

System Center 2016 | TP5

Simplify management of your hybrid environment with new System Center 2016 Technical Preview

We’re excited to announce the release of System Center 2016 Technical Preview 5, the latest milestone along the road to delivering the tools you need for today’s hybrid environments. System Center 2016 offers a simplified datacenter management experience to keep you in control of your IT, whether on-premises, in the cloud, or across platforms. It builds on the experience and depth of the previous versions and extends capabilities with Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS) to help you easily manage data and applications that live across multiple systems, from a single solution. With System Center 2016 you can:

  • Increase efficiency with simplified workflows and easier to use consoles
  • Unlock new Windows Server 2016 capabilities for the software-defined datacenter
  • Benefit from broader support for heterogeneous environments, including Linux, Hyper V, and VMware
  • Access new capabilities for analytics, reporting, and orchestration in the cloud using native integration with Operations Management Suite

See it in action: Microsoft Mechanics System Center 2016

Download the evaluation: System Center 2016 Technical Preview

Azure Cool Blob Storage | GA

Azure Storage is announcing the general availability of the Cool storage tier for blob storage with prices starting at 1c/GB/month. Customers can now create a new Blob Storage Account that allows them to select between Hot and Cool tiers depending on the data access pattern. Relative to Hot tier, the Cool tier is suitable for data that is not frequently accessed and can tolerate slightly lower availability (99% SLA). The Cool tier provides similar latency and throughput as the Hot tier. Customers will see significant cost savings by using the Cool tier for appropriate data sets. Some of the common scenarios for Cool tier that we’re working with customers on include: backup data, disaster recovery, media content, social media photos and videos, scientific data and so on.

Learn more:

EA support offer | Available to purchase

From May 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 Enterprise Agreement customers that have or intend to buy Microsoft Azure Services are eligible for support upgrades.

Microsoft will provide at least a 12-month support upgrade to all customers buying Microsoft Azure Services on an Enterprise Agreement (EA). Customers may also be eligible for additional benefits if they make a prepaid commitment to Microsoft Azure of at least $100,000* or consumption of at least $10,000* per month, for three consecutive months. This offer does not extend to customers with a Premier support contract. Additional details available here.

PHP 7 support in Azure Web Apps | GA

Microsoft is excited to announce general availability of PHP 7 in Azure Web Apps. This highlights our commitment to our customers’ success with PHP in the cloud and builds on our November announcement of experimental support, the first hyperscale cloud platform to do so. Customers looking to run PHP 7 POCs to evaluate performance/density implications for CMS, line-of-business and e-commerce apps can now use Azure Web Apps for their applications. We are also updating our support policy to include PHP 7.

Virtual Network BGP with Azure Virtual Network VPN Gateways | GA

Announcing the general availability for using BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) with Azure VPN gateways and provide redundant tunnels for high availability. Following are some of the benefits of using BGP with your gateways.

Support automatic and flexible prefix updates

  • With BGP, you only need to declare a minimum prefix to a specific BGP peer over the IPsec S2S VPN tunnel. It can be as small as a host prefix (/32) of the BGP peer IP address of your on premises VPN device. You can control which on premises network prefixes you want to advertise to Azure to allow your Azure Virtual Network to access.
  • You can also advertise a larger prefixes that may include some of your VNet address prefixes, such as default route (0.0.0.0/0) or a large private IP address space (e.g., 10.0.0.0/8). Please note though the prefixes cannot be identical with any one of your VNet prefixes. Those routes identical to your VNet prefixes will be rejected.
  • Support multiple tunnels between a VNet and an on premises site with automatic failover based on BGP
  • You can establish multiple connections between your Azure VNet and your on premises VPN devices in the same location. This capability provides multiple tunnels (paths) between the two networks in an active-active configuration. If one of the tunnels is disconnected, the corresponding route will be withdrawn via BGP and the traffic will automatically shift to the remaining tunnels.

Support transit routing between your on-premises networks and multiple Azure VNets

  • BGP enables multiple gateways to learn and propagate prefixes from different networks, whether they are directly or indirectly connected. This can enable transit routing with Azure VPN gateways between your on premises sites or across multiple Azure Virtual Networks.

Learn more in our overview and how-to documentation.

Resources for IT Pros to build their careers in cloud technology | GA – IT Pro Cloud Essentials and Career Center

Cloud technology is transforming the role of IT. Building new skills and learning about cloud technology is important for career growth. Microsoft is introducing two new free programs for IT Professionals who want to build and grow their career in the cloud-first world. Join now!

Microsoft IT Pro Cloud Essentials

A free annual subscription that includes free cloud services, education and support.

  • Cloud services: Azure credits, Enterprise Mobility Suite 90-day trial, and Office 365 60-day trial
  • Education: Pluralsight three-month subscription, certification exam voucher, and IT Pro Career Center
  • Support: Priority support in the TechNet forums and a phone support incident

Microsoft IT Pro Career Center

A free online resource to help IT Professionals map their cloud career path.

  • Career mapping: Discover what industry experts suggest for your cloud role
  • Cloud role courses: Follow a learning curriculum for your chosen cloud role
  • Industry career trends: Hear from industry experts about the skills you need to succeed
  • Personality traits: Get insights on your personality traits and how they matchup to cloud roles

Azure Container Service | GA

Azure Container Service is the fastest way to realize the benefits of running containers in production, using customers’ preferred choice of proven open source technology, tools and skills and with the confidence of a thriving community support and ecosystem. It provides simplified configurations of proven open source container orchestration technology, optimized to run in the Azure cloud. In just a few clicks customers can deploy container-based applications on a framework designed to help manage the complexity of containers deployed at scale, in production. Unlike other container services, the Azure Container Service is built on 100% open source software and offers a choice among popular orchestration engines: open source DC/OS or Docker Swarm.

Media Analytics | Public

Today we’re announcing public preview of Azure Media Analytics, a collection of speech and vision services (eight in total) that make it easier for organizations and enterprises to derive actionable insights from their video files through advanced machine learning technology. Azure Media Analytics services are hosted by the Azure Media Services platform, Azure’s cloud media solution for encoding, encrypting, and streaming audio or video at scale, live or on demand (VOD). Media Analytics services are offered at enterprise scale, delivering the compliance, security and global reach large organizations need.

What services are included in Azure Media Analytics today?

Available today, our customers will have access to the following services in Media Analytics:

  • Indexer: Indexer has been available to our Azure Media Services customers since 2014. Today, we are bringing Indexer under the umbrella of Media Analytics and with this announcement, we are also introducing support for six new languages (in addition to the existing support for two languages of English and Spanish) for speech-to-text functionality via a new media processor called “Azure Media Indexer 2 Preview.
  • Face Detection: Using this service, customers can detect faces that appear in video, track movement of faces over multiple frames and analyze the output of metadata that provides information about timestamps and face locations.
  • Face Emotion Recognition: With this service, customers can recognize the emotion of a person or crowd over time based on the facial expressions in video. The machine learning algorithm identifies emotions based on expressions that psychological research has identified as universal, including expressions for happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, contempt, fear, disgust and indifference/neutral.
  • Motion Detection: Using this service, customers can detect when motion has occurred in videos with stationary backgrounds. This is useful for eliminating false positives caused due to light changes, shadows, small insects and others.
  • Video Summarization: Video summarization can help customers create summaries of long videos by automatically selecting interesting snippets from the source video. This is useful for providing a quick overview of what to expect in a long video.
  • *Content Moderation: This service is designed to cut down the manual effort involved in reviewing content for offensive, illicit and inappropriate material and is ideal for content managers dealing with a lot of user generated content submitted from anonymous sources.
  • *Video Optical Character Recognizer: This service allows customers to extract typeset words from video content. Customers can select their own sampling rate to balance performance and quality, as well as specify where in the video to look (e.g. bottom third for captions).
  • Hyperlapse: Hyperlapse is a product build on more than 20 years of research in computational photography, designed to create smooth and stabilized time lapses from first-person videos and supports different speeds up factors from 1x to 25x.

*Video Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Content Moderation are available to our customers in private preview. In order to gain access to Video OCR and content moderation, email: amsanalytics@microsoft.com.

Visual Studio Code | GA

Visual Studio Code shipped version 1.0, ahead of its one-year anniversary since the initial public preview last year. Visual Studio Code is an open source, cross-platform code editor that streamlines building modern web and cloud applications. With intelligent code editing features, powerful integrated debugging, and more than 1,000 extensions to support your framework or language of choice, Visual Studio Code is a free, lightweight option for developers building apps for the cloud. For more details, see the blog post, and download Visual Studio Code free for Linux, OS X, and Windows.

Xamarin product announcements at Evolve | Xamarin Evolve announcements

Today, at Xamarin Evolve 2016, the world’s largest cross-platform mobile development event, we were pleased to announce further progress on the integration of Xamarin into Microsoft and delivered some great product momentum with further updates to the product line, less than one month after //Build. Specifically, we announced the open sourcing of the Xamarin SDK and additional Visual Studio integrations.

We also shared enhancements to Xamarin Forms and the Xamarin Studio IDE for Mac-based mobile developers, reinforcing our commitment to every developer, regardless of platform choice. In combination these changes will help developers create beautiful applications. Faster. For more information about the news, please visit Nat Friedman’s Official Microsoft Blog post.

Power BI Desktop | GA

Following the announcements at the Data Insights Summit, many new and most frequently requested Power BI Desktop features are now available to business analysts.

  • Table formatting gives users the ability to set the styles of a table, matrix, and multi-row card, providing the flexibility to create more attractive tables, matrices, and multi-row cards as well as emphasize specific data points making them stand out more in a presentation.
  • Trend lines enable users to turn on a trend line in a chart, specifically line, scatter, bubble, column, area, and combo charts, and get a quick visual insight into the data.
  • See Records allows users to see the data records behind a data point, providing faster and deeper visibility and access to the underlying data set.
  • Parameters provides users the ability to create and manage parameters within their Power BI Desktop file for easier and more flexible data modeling and queries.
  • Template file enables exporting Power BI Desktop content as a template, i.e., saving the definition of a report, data model, and queries, but not the actual data, such that users can re-use a template on top of similar data sets.

Download the latest Power BI Desktop to experience the new features immediately. For more information on these new features and others, visit the Power BI blog.

Power BI service | GA

Following the announcements at the Data Insights Summit, many new and most frequently requested Power BI features are now available to business analysts.

  • Row-level security enables reuse of the same Power BI dashboard for all regional sales managers, while restricting each regional sales manager to see data only in his/her own region.
  • Admin usage reporting gives an admin the ability to track the importance and use of reporting in their company and see which users and groups are the most active with Power BI.
  • Model size increase to 1 GB quadruples the model size supported in Power BI, in response to user feedback.
  • ExpressRoute provides the ability to create a private network connection from your organization to Power BI (or using an ISP’s colocation facility), bypassing the Internet to better secure your sensitive data and connections.

Joining Microsoft Trust Center provides customers a single page documenting Power BI’s compliance with ISO 27001, ISO 27018, EU Model Clauses, HIPAA BAA, and UK G-Cloud.

Sign in to powerbi.microsoft.com to experience the new features immediately. For more information on these new features and others, visit the Power BI blog.

Azure SQL Database – Active Geo DR for Basic and Standard Service Tiers | GA

Active Geo-Replication now available on all service tiers

Starting today, we have expanded our geo-replication features by enabling Active Geo-Replication across Azure SQL Database Basic and Standard service tiers. As a result of expanding this feature to all service tiers, Standard Geo-Replication will be retired in April 2017. By leveraging Active Geo-Replication in either a Basic or Standard database, there are numerous benefits that will deliver greater security and business continuity in disaster situations, including:

  • Database-level disaster recovery to replicate transactions to databases on different Microsoft Azure SQL Database servers within the same or different regions.
  • Cross-region redundancy enables application to recover from permanent loss of a datacenter caused by natural disasters, catastrophic human errors, or malicious acts.
  • Online secondary databases are readable, so it can act as a load balancer for read workloads such as reporting.
  • Automatic asynchronous replication: After an online secondary database has been seeded, updates to the primary database are asynchronously copied to the online secondary database automatically.

To learn more about Active Geo-Replication and its full set of capabilities, refer to the Active Geo-Replication for Azure SQL Database documentation on Azure.com.

Azure Machine Learning | HIPAA and EU model clauses compliance and ISO 27001

We are excited to announce that Azure Machine Learning security practices have been verified by independent third party auditors and achieved ISO 27001, ISO 27018, HIPAA, and EU Model Clauses compliance. Enterprise customers often require the cloud services comply with security compliance certifications driven for example by internal policies. Compliance certifications provide assurance to the customers that the security of the services have been verified by independent auditors.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) establishes requirements for the use, disclosure and safeguarding of electronic Patient Health Information (ePHI). Azure Machine Learning HIPAA compliance enables you, the customer to use Advanced Analytics workloads involving electronic Health Information (ePHI) sauch as Genome Sequence Data in Azure Machine Learning opening up opportunities to leverage the Cloud Scale and Agility. For more information on HIPAA, HITECH Act and the Business Associate Agreement (BAA), refer to the detailed information here.

ISO 27001 is an international security standard and one of the most widely recognized certifications for a cloud service. ISO 27018 represents the code of practice for protecting personal data in the cloud, please visit the dedicated site for more information.

The EU (European Union) Model Clauses are standardized contractual clauses used in agreements between service providers (such as Microsoft) and customers to ensure that any personal data leaving the EEA (European Economic Area) will be transferred in compliance with EU data protection law. Additional information on EU Model Clauses can be found here.

Please see the full blog post here. Visit the Azure Machine Learning website for more information and to provide feedback via our forum.

Azure Machine Learning | PP – Azure ML in Black Forest (Germany)

Azure ML preview available in Azure Germany

Today we are excited to announce the private preview of Azure Machine Learning as part of the IOT Suite launch at Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology, in Microsoft Azure Germany.

What’s Microsoft Azure Germany?

The German datacenter is a physically and logically separate allocation of Azure, one in which all customer data and required support systems reside in German datacenters. There is a dedicated network within Germany that is independent of the public cloud network. A German data trustee, T-Systems (Deutsche Telekom), controls physical and logical access to customer data, and Microsoft has a commitment to meet applicable compliance requirements and certifications. If you require compliance with German business and public sector requirements, then Microsoft Azure Germany would be appropriate for you. Otherwise, Azure ML is available in public Azure regions already.

What should I know about Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Germany?

When you provision the IOT Suite Predictive Maintenance solution through its Germany-specific page at https://www.azureiotsuite.de/, you will get an Azure ML workspace and the corresponding experiment. This is currently the only non-programmatic way to create an Azure ML workspace.

Once the workspace is created, you will be able to use Azure ML Studio as you would in public Azure. You can create new experiments, drag in modules, and run the experiment.

How do I get started?

  • Find more information in the full blog post here.
  • Customers who are interested in participating in the preview can email AzureGermany@microsoft.com.

SQL Server 2016 | RC 3

SQL Server 2016 Release Candidate (RC) 3 was released on Friday, April 15th. In SQL Server 2016 RC 3, our fourth and final release candidate, changes consisted primarily of bug fixes, and there were no major feature enhancements or additions because the product is now essentially feature complete. To learn more, read the RC 3 blog post.

Set up a SQL Server 2016 RC preview test environment today! To experience the new, exciting features in SQL Server 2016 and the new rapid release model, download the preview and start evaluating the impact these new innovations can have for your business.

Intune MAM capabilities for the RMS sharing app on Android | GA

The RMS sharing app on iOS and Android devices helps you view protected files that others have shared with you. Taking a step further to provide a unified experience to protect your devices, apps and data -the app on Android is now integrated with Intune Mobile Application Management (MAM) capabilities.

You can use the new RMS sharing app on Android to view PDF, image and audio/video files from Intune managed applications. IT can also configure policies for the content viewed through the app, restricting actions such as cut, copy, paste, and “save as” of corporate data between managed and unmanaged apps (ex. personal apps such as Twitter or Facebook). The device doesn’t need to be enrolled for management in order for Intune to manage the app. This is great for BYOD scenarios where employees use their own un-enrolled devices for work.

If you’re interested in learning more about MAM policies in Intune, this article is a great place to start.