Cloud Platform Release Announcements for April 19, 2017

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:

  • Azure AD B2B Collaboration | GA
  • Azure AD B2C EU availability | GA
  • Azure Analysis Services | GA
  • Microsoft R Server V9.1 & SQL R Services ( Python Preview) | Microsoft R Server 9.1
  • Azure HDInsight | Available now in UK West and South – GA
  • Azure SQL DB protects and secures data | TDE/AE Key Vault Integration-Public Preview
  • Azure SQL DB scales on the fly | P11-P15 4TB option – GA
  • Azure SQL DB preferred dev environment| Migration service + SQL DB expanded support
  • Cognitive Services | Computer Vision, Face API & Content Moderator GA
  • Cortana Intelligence Solution Templates | GA
  • DocumentDB | Encryption at rest/Data Explorer – GA
  • SQL Server v.Next (Windows, Linux, and Docker) | CTP 2.0
  • Azure Container Service | ACR GA
  • Windows Server DockerCon Announcements | Windows Server announcements at DockerCon Microsoft Dynamics 365 | GA
  • In-VM Scheduled Events | Public Preview
  • Operations Management Suite | Log Analytics: Service Map GA, DNS Analytics
  • Azure Network Watcher | GA
  • DocumentDB | Spark Connector – Public Preview
  • Power BI Desktop | GA
  • Power BI service | GA

Azure AD B2B Collaboration | GA

Azure Active Directory (AD) is the foundation of our identity-driven security approach and extends beyond your own employees to secure the identities of external collaborators—partners, contractors, and vendors. Our goal is to make it easy and secure to collaborate with the employees of any organization.

B2B collaboration provides external user accounts with secure access to documents, resources, and applications—while maintaining control over internal data. There’s no need to add external users to your directory, sync them, or worry about managing their lifecycle; IT can invite collaborators to use any email address—Office 365, on-premises Microsoft Exchange, or even a personal address (, Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.)—and even set up Conditional Access Policies, including multi-factor authentication (MFA). Your developers can use the Azure AD B2B APIs to write applications that bring together different organizations in a secure way—and deliver a seamless and intuitive end user experience.

Millions of users and thousands of customers have already been using Azure AD B2B collaboration capabilities available through public preview. Azure AD B2B collaboration is generally available on April 12.

Azure AD B2C EU availability | GA

Azure Active Directory B2C, now available in Europe, is a highly available, global identity and access management service that enables organizations to securely connect with their customers at scale. Your customers can use existing social media accounts or create new credentials for single sign-on access to consumer facing applications through a fully customizable experience.

Organizations have now the option to use Azure AD B2C tenants that operate and store data only in European datacenters. For all other regions, Azure AD B2C is available through the North American or European datacenters.

Here’s how you can get started with Azure Active Directory B2C:

  • Watch this video to see the benefits of cloud-based consumer identity and access management
  • Read more details from the Azure AD B2C team blog
  • Get started with Azure AD B2C in your consumer app

Azure Analysis Services | GA

Azure Analysis Services is generally available

As of April 19, 2017, Azure Analysis Services is generally available. Along with introducing service level agreement (SLA) support for the existing Standard tier, we added a new smaller capacity Basic tier to provide additional options for customers with smaller workloads. General availability pricing will take effect on June 1, 2017.

Azure Analysis Services is now available in three additional regions: UK South, Japan East, West India, joining Brazil South, Southeast Asia, North Europe, West Europe, West US, South Central US, East US 2, West Central US and North Central US. For more information about pricing, please visit the Azure Analysis Services Pricing webpage.

Based on the proven analytics engine in SQL Server Analysis Services, Azure Analysis Services helps you transform complex data from different data sources into a BI semantic model, so users in your organization can easily gain insights by connecting to the data models using tools like Excel, Power BI, and others to create reports and perform ad hoc data analysis To learn more about this service, please visit the Azure Analysis Service webpage.

Microsoft R Server V9.1 & SQL R Services ( Python Preview) | Microsoft R Server 9.1

Microsoft R 9.1 Release
On December 7, 2016. We announced the release of Microsoft R Server 9.0.  A robust analytics solution to predict customer behavior and discover new opportunities and insights. Now we are announcing the availability of Microsoft R Server 9.1

At Microsoft, we continue to invest deeply in advanced analytics solutions to address challenges our customers face in their day to day, and we have some significant updates to announce.
Microsoft R Server V9.1 release supports State-of-the-art Machine Learning Algorithms, across all supported platformsSQL, Windows, Linux, Hadoop& Spark.

The updated MicrosoftML package in MRS 9.1 combines best-of-breed open source and Microsoft ML algorithms which were battle tested on Internal Microsoft Products. These are now available for users of our Microsoft R Server on other platforms.

Customers can combine the algorithms delivered in this package with pre-existing parallel external memory algorithms such as the RevoScaleR package as well as open source innovations such as CRAN R packages to provide the best predictive analytics. MicrosoftML includes these algorithms:

  • Pleasingly Parallel, RxExecBy(), on Windows, Linux, Hadoop, SQL Server- A pleasingly parallel workload or problem is one where little or no effort is needed to separate the problem into several parallel tasks. This scenario addresses the case where it is little or no dependencies or needs for communication between parallel tasks, or for results between them.
  • Microsoft ML algorithms are available on Linux, Hadoop (via ensemble methods)
  • SparklyR – H2O – Rx interop
  • Pre-trained ML models for sSentiment and iImage featurizers
  • ORC support
  • RxMerge
  • Full embrace of Spark2.0 – SparkETL, SparkSQL

The focus on deployment support and enabling models to bring value faster to our customers was well received. We continue to enhance and improve Operationalization by providing:

  • Real-time scoring
  • Role based access control
  • Asynchronous batch processing
  • Dynamic scaling of operationalization grid with Azure VMs

On our Cloud offerings, we updated our Azure Virtual Machines and extended to new regions.

  • MRS 9.1 Azure Virtual MachinesM
  • Azure Virtual machinesVM for Microsoft R Server MRS available on sovereign cloud in China
  • SQL Server Virtual Machines Ms on Azure
  • Data Science Virtual Machine Ms

New Solution Templates

  • Hospital Length of Stay OS Solution Template for SQL
  • Campaign optimization on HDI

Microsoft R 9.1 was created and enhanced by a new approach. We engage with real users of the product and understand how and why they do what they do; we work hard on making it easy to adopt our product and aligned a closed loop development with broad customer partnership. In Microsoft 9.1 we implemented the following methods:

  • AzureAdvisors
  • UserVoice
  • MSDN R Blogs, Tiger R Blogs, Revolutions
  • eBook on SQL
  • Certifications
  • Training Partners
  • Customer engagement quotes

Development Environments & 3rd party integrations for Developers and Data Scientists

  • PTVS
  • Azure Jupyter Notebook Service
  • Alteryx integration
  • KNIME integration

The success and growth in adoption of Microsoft R Server and the continued interest and support from our open source and Data Science user communities enabled us to bring support to a new open source language, Python.

Our customers have users of R and were asking us when Python would be supported in-Database for Data Analytics.  By leveraging our extensibility access layer, we were able to extend support Python in Microsoft SQL Server 2017. With the combined languages and Machine learning algorithms, we saw an opportunity to better align with our Machine Learning and AI capabilities.

In addition to all these new capabilities coming to SQL Server, in SQL Server 2017 CTP2, we are also adding preview support for scalable Python based analytics in addition to R based analytics.

SQL Server Machine Learning Services with

  • Real-time Scoring – Rx and MML
  • Improved Package install/uninstall; RxSync package (user-initiated restore)
  • Python Preview (subset of Rx algorithms, no MML)

Azure HDInsight | Available now in UK West and South – GA

Azure HDInsight available in additional regions
Azure HDInsight for Linux is now available in UK West and UK South. HDInsight is a fully managed cloud Hadoop offering that provides open-source analytic clusters for Spark, Hive, MapReduce, HBase, Storm, Kafka, and R Server backed by a 99.9 percent service-level agreement (SLA). To learn more about this service, please visit the HDInsight webpage.

Azure SQL DB protects and secures data | TDE/AE Key Vault Integration-Public Preview

Azure SQL TDE with BYOK Support
Want to bring your own key (BYOK) for encryption in SQL? With Key Vault integration for SQL Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), your organization is enabled to assume higher control over key management by using a key from Key Vault for encryption at rest, and control who has access to your data and when. Will be available in SQL Database and SQL Data Warehouse.

Azure SQL DB scales on the fly | P11-P15 4TB option – GA

Now generally available: 4TB Option for P11 and P15
Effective immediately, the 4TB option for P11 and P15 databases is now generally available with a 99.99 percent availability SLA. As during preview, customers can use up to 4TB of included storage at no additional charge. You can learn more about the 4TB storage option and region availability, please visit our documentation page.

Azure SQL DB preferred dev environment| Migration service + SQL DB expanded support

New migration service in Azure and expanded support in SQL Database
At Microsoft Data Amp we’re announcing limited previews for a new migration service and expanded SQL Database support for existing SQL Server databases. The new migration service will help you move existing SQL Server and Oracle databases to Azure SQL Database or SQL Server in an Azure virtual machine. Additionally, the expanded support in SQL Database will bring native VNET support and a large set of SQL server instance level features to help streamline lift and shift to Azure. Apply to participate in the limited preview today.

Cognitive Services | Computer Vision, Face API & Content Moderator GA

Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of 25 intelligent APIs that allows machines to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication.

Microsoft Cognitive Services delivers on the company’s vision to make AI accessible to all — consumers, businesses, developers — so that everyone can realize its benefits.

With its Cognitive Services, Microsoft is offering developers a differentiated collection of intelligent tools, backed by years of technology research and product expertise.

Microsoft made the following announcements regarding Microsoft Cognitive Services: we are excited to announce that Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator are now Generally Available in the Azure Portal.

  • Face API helps to detect human faces and compare similar ones, organize people into groups according to visual similarity, and identify previously tagged people and their emotions in images.
  • Computer Vision API gives you the tools to understand the contents of any image: create tags identifying objects, beings, or actions present in the image, and then craft coherent sentences to describe it. You can now detect landmarks and handwriting in images. Handwriting detection remains in preview.
  • Content Moderator provides machine assisted moderation of text and images, augmented with human review tools. Video moderation is available in preview as part of Azure Media Services.

Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator are now available in 4 additional data centers: West Central US, East US2, West Europe and South East Asia (on top of West US).

Cortana Intelligence Solution Templates | GA

Cortana Intelligence Solution Templates allows you to use advanced analytics and big data to improve business processes and increase competitiveness. Leverage a flexible solution templates built using best practice architecture and machine learning models and backed by Microsoft’s rich ecosystem of partners.

The first three solution templates will be for the following use cases:

  • Demand Forecasting for Retail
  • Personalized Offers for Online Retail
  • Quality Assurance for Retail

DocumentDB | Encryption at rest/Data Explorer – GA

DocumentDB new features: Data Explorer and encryption at rest
We are pleased to announce Data Explorer, which provides a rich unified developer experience for inserting, querying, and managing DocumentDB data within the Azure Portal and the Emulator. We are also rolling out encryption at rest across all our regions. All data stored in DocumentDB will be automatically encrypted at rest while maintaining the same great availability, latency, throughput, and functionality that you enjoy today.

SQL Server v.Next (Windows, Linux, and Docker) | CTP 2.0

Now available: SQL Server 2017 Community Technology Preview 2.0
SQL Server 2017 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2.0 is now available on Windows, Linux and Docker. This new preview introduces several new capabilities including the ability to manage and query graph data, and to run analytical queries written using Python natively and at scale inside the database. Customers can preview CTP 2.0 in an Azure VM for development and testing today.

Azure Container Service | ACR GA

Launch Blog

Azure Friday Launch Video

Product Details
Companies of all sizes are embracing containers as a fast and portable way to lift, shift and modernize into cloud-native apps. As part of this process, customers need a way to store and manage images for all types of container deployments. In November, we announced the preview of Azure Container Registry, which enables developers to create and maintain Azure container registries to store and manage private Docker container images.

Today, we’re announcing the general availability of Azure Container Registry supporting a network-close, private registry for Linux and Windows container images. Azure Container Registry integrates well with orchestrators hosted in Azure Container Service, including Docker Swarm, Kubernetes and DC/OS as well as other Azure Services including Service Fabric and Azure App Services. Customers can benefit from using familiar tooling capable of working with the open source Docker Registry v2. Learn more by watching this Azure Container Registry GA video.

Building on the November Preview, we’ve added the following features and capabilities:

  • Availability in 23 regions, with a global footprint (with more coming)
  • Repositories, tag, and manifest listing in the Azure Portal
  • Dual-key password providing key rotation
  • Nested level repositories
  • Azure CLI 2.0 support

Windows Server DockerCon Announcements | Windows Server announcements at DockerCon

Windows Server news at DockerCon

Developers from all over the world are flocking to DockerCon in Austin, TX, this week to soak up the latest innovation in the world of containers and applications. Here is a roundup of the news from the Windows Server and Docker teams:

  • We demonstrated Linux containers running on Windows Server with Hyper-V isolation.  Soon both Linux containers and Windows Server Containers will be able to run side by side on the same host, with the same management experience and the added security benefits of Hyper-V isolation.  As part of this announcement, Docker shared that their newly announced LinuxKit would be supported in this new isolated deployment and major Linux vendors including Canonical, Intel, RedHat and SuSE announced their support and partnership with Microsoft on this project.
  • Windows Server 2016 now supports overlay networking, so IT admins can create a Docker cluster, using Swarm mode, which spans across multiple Windows Server 2016 and Linux Docker hosts without worrying about separately configuring the underlying network fabric.
  • We are also launching a new program with Docker and Avanade to help enterprise customers embrace containers and application modernization. Within 30 days, customers will have their first application containerized and deployed with Docker Enterprise Edition Standard in Azure with management though Docker Datacenter. This gives customers firsthand experience in the process, methodology and benefits of containerization with minimal overhead or risk.

Customers like Northern Trust have embraced Windows Server containers and Docker technology to take existing applications and make them more secure, more efficient to maintain, deploy and run, and portable to any infrastructure – cloud, hybrid, or on-premises. Read how Northern Trust can now provision applications 4x faster than before.

Read all the announcements on the Hybrid Cloud blog.

Visit the Microsoft containers website for more details.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 | GA

On April 5, we announced the general availability of Microsoft Social Engagement Update 1.3.  Update 1.3 introduces a new way to measure the success of your social customer care activities: the PowerBI Content Pack for Dynamics 365 – Microsoft Social Engagement. This content pack is designed specifically for community managers, providing performance metrics for engagement actions taken from within Social Engagement. It also offers a new Conversation view, which shows you any conversation that involves private messages (Facebook or Twitter) and Twitter replies of one of your social profiles.

Microsoft Social Engagement, part of Dynamics 365, helps you harness the power of social to achieve real business results. To learn more about the capabilities released in this update, read the knowledge base article.

In-VM Scheduled Events | Public Preview

On April 3, Azure started the public preview for Scheduled Events, which surfaces information regarding upcoming maintenance or user initiated events (for example, reboot) that may affect your Virtual Machine availability.  With this information, you can prepare for potential availability issues and limit disruption.  The capability surfaces information about upcoming VM pauses, reboots, and redeploys.

Getting notified of these events will allow you to take actions such as reassigning VMs in a multi-instance workflow to avoid loss of replicas, completing (or canceling) in-flight transactions, reassigning tasks to other VMs in a cluster, or removing the Virtual Machine from a load balancer pool.  These actions will all contribute to better application availability.

Scheduled Events is available for all Azure Virtual Machine types, including IaaS and PaaS.  For more information and examples of how to set it up in PowerShell, C#, and Python, please visit the Scheduled Events documentation webpage.

Operations Management Suite | Log Analytics: Service Map GA, DNS Analytics

With new monitoring and diagnostics capabilities in Azure, you can now visualize and act on your operational data in a way that you never have before. Map out process and server dependencies with Service Map, a new technology in Azure Insight & Analytics that makes it easier to troubleshoot and plan ahead for future changes or migrations. Expand network visibility with DNS Analytics, a new solution in Azure Insight & Analytics that helps you visualize real-time security, performance and operations-related data for your DNS servers. Also, now within the log analytics dashboard, you can remediate issues right away with a new menu option to Take Action and resolve an issue directly from a log search result. Additionally, you can use the Smart Diagnostics functionality in Azure Application Insights to diagnose sudden changes in the performance or usage of your web application. Azure management and security services help you to get greater visibility into your environment with advanced data analysis and visualization, and make it easy to turn insights into action. Learn more.

Azure Network Watcher | GA

We are pleased to announce that we recently made Azure Network Watcher generally available. Monitoring and diagnosing your cloud Azure network is being simplified by the introduction of Network watcher. Diagnostic and visualization tools available with Network Watcher will enable you to take remote packet captures on a VM, gain insights into your network traffic using flow logs, and diagnose VPN Gateway and Connections.

For more information, please visit the Azure Blog by Yousef Khalidi.

Network Watcher documentation.

DocumentDB | Spark Connector – Public Preview

DocumentDB new feature: Spark Connector
We are pleased to announce Spark connector for DocumentDB, enabling real-time data science and exploration over globally distributed data in DocumentDB. To learn more, visit the Azure blog.

Power BI Desktop | GA

New and most frequently requested Power BI Desktop features are now available to business analysts.

  • Report view: Rename axis titles and experience new matrix visual enhancements including column sorting, column resizing, and word wrapping (preview).
  • Analytics: Quick measures and show value as (preview).
  • Modeling: Ability to set a model language to Spanish for the Q&A in Spanish (preview).
  • Data connectivity: Connect to datasets in the Power BI service (preview), Redshift Connector now includes beta support and publish to Power BI service, and SAP HANA & BW Connectors now provide enhancements to parameter input experience.
  • Query editing: Add column by example, split column (by delimiter or number of characters) into rows, group by-basic mode, and go to column.

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

More new and most frequently requested Power BI features are now available to end users and business analysts in the month of April.

  • Usage Metrics:  Content owners can see detailed usage information for dashboard, reports, and datasets.
  • Related Content Pane: View and navigate between related dashboards, reports, and datasets with a single click.
  • Q&A in Spanish (Preview): Ask questions in Spanish for Spanish language data model.
  • Report Lifecycle: Download PBIX from content pack created reports.
  • Experience Improvements: improved experience when opening dashboards or reports which have not been accessed for long time.
  • New navigation UX becomes default (early May): The new (currently opt-in preview) navigation UX for the Power BI service becomes the default for all users. This new navigation UX makes it easier to discover and get to the content that matter most to users.

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