Another week, another stack of Windows Azure features, enhancements, and improvements. That's the way it seems, huh? Microsoft is building new features into Windows Azure at a supersonic pace these days. And, that's good. We've known that it won't be long before Windows Azure will look exactly like the on-premise datacenter, but based on some recent additions, it truly won't be long before Windows Azure will be better than the on-premise datacenter, making it extremely hard for businesses to deny that a Hybrid Cloud solution could be valuable. Of course, as Paul states in his recent article, it boils down to trust.

This week, Microsoft announced a slew of new features for Windows Azure, including some extra important pieces such as the Hadoop Service (HDInsight) and a new, expanded Virtual Machine Gallery. You can get a list of what has been added below, but one of the more unique features added as a Preview version this week is the ability to walk through a wizard that takes local data, stores it to a physical hard disk, and then prepares the data-filled hard disk for shipping to Microsoft. Once the hard disk arrives, Microsoft will actually perform the work to import the received data into Windows Azure.

The value of this feature is that you can backup excessive amounts of local data and then have it imported without the worry of soaking up all of your network bandwidth. Full encryption of the data is provided so you don't have to worry about the hard drive getting lost during transit and then fearing that the company's privacy could be breached by miscreants.

If you'd like to take advantage of this new feature, jump out to the Windows Azure Preview page.

As noted by Scott, here's the other features added this week:

  • HDInsight: General Availability of our Hadoop Service in the cloud
  • Virtual Machines: New VM Gallery, ACL support for VIPs
  • Web Sites: WebSocket and Remote Debugging Support
  • Notification Hubs: Segmented customer push notification support with tag expressions
  • TFS & GIT: Continuous Delivery Support for Web Sites + Cloud Services
  • Developer Analytics: New Relic support for Web Sites + Mobile Services
  • Service Bus: Support for partitioned queues and topics
  • Billing: New Billing Alert Service that sends emails notifications when your bill hits a threshold you define