Despite seeing updates on almost every front from Microsoft over the past few months, and knowing that there's a huge set of product updates coming in the Fall (Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and so on…), none of Microsoft's products are getting more development attention than Windows Azure. Almost monthly, Microsoft has announced a new feature for Windows Azure, continuing to build the Cloud OS into a direct replacement for on-premise services. Windows Azure is steadily coming along, accelerating Microsoft's proposed Cloud vision and making it harder and harder for companies to ignore.

The features just keep growing. On Monday, on the ASP.NET blogs, Scott Guthrie announced and explained 5 new, major updates to Windows Azure. The new capabilities are:

  • SQL Server AlwaysOn Support: General Availability support with Windows Azure Virtual Machines (enables both high availability and disaster recovery)
  • Notification Hubs:General Availability Release of Windows Azure Notification Hubs (broadcast push for Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and Android)
  • AutoScale: Schedule-based AutoScale rules and richer logging support
  • Virtual Machines: Load Balancer Configuration and Management
  • Management Services: New Portal Extension for Operation logs + Alerts

Scott goes into great detail for the new features, so you'll definitely want to read through the entire post. You can find it here:  Windows Azure: General Availability of SQL Server Always On Support and Notification Hubs, AutoScale Improvements + More

In itself, the SQL Server AlwaysOn support is definitely welcome, but a couple pieces that piqued my interest the most were the Notification Hubs and the Management Services.

Notification Hubs allow you to create broadcasts that push content, or alerts, to millions of devices at once. Microsoft utilizes similar technology to deliver news alerts such as are provided in the Bing News Windows 8 app. But, large organizations could take advantage of this, allowing them to deliver company-wide broadcasts that scale out to the entire employee base.

Management Services is an update, but also a reorganization of the "alerts" and "operations logs" which used to reside in "Settings" in the Windows Azure Management Portal. Management Services combines the two into a more prominent place directly in the portal menu for easy access. The component brings a System Center Operations Manager type of function closer to the fore.