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Microsoft Boosts Windows Azure with VPN Tweaks

Microsoft on Friday announced virtual private network (VPN) improvements to some Windows Azure components, making it easier for administrators to access virtual networks, either from behind a corporate firewall or remotely.

The improvements were to the "Virtual Network" and "Virtual Machines" components of Windows Azure. The news follows Microsoft's earlier announcement of added Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) capabilities.

There are three enhanced Windows Azure Virtual Network capabilities. One of them is new -- a point-to-site connectivity addition. It allows a computer to access the virtual network through the computer's built-in Windows VPN client. This point-to-site VPN connection uses the Secure Sockets Tunneling Protocol and can pass through proxy servers and corporate firewalls, or it can be used remotely. It supposedly does not require administrator setup, according to Microsoft's announcement.

The second addition to the Windows Azure Virtual Network component concerns Microsoft's existing site-to-site connectivity solution, which connects an on-premises network to a virtual network running in Microsoft's cloud. Doing that used to require having a hardware device in place from Juniper or Cisco. However, now the site-to-site tunneling is performed via software using Windows Server 2012 and its Routing and Remote Access service.

The third improvement to Windows Azure Virtual Network concerns dynamic domain name server (DNS) support. DNS settings can now be updated "without having to redeploy the virtual network and the VMs in them," according to Microsoft's announcement. This change supposedly will make it a little easier to deploy updates.

Next, Microsoft added two updates to its Windows Azure Virtual Machines component. One of the updates makes it easier for IT pros to set up remote PowerShell capabilities for virtual machines (VMs). Microsoft added a checkbox that now appears when using the Windows Azure Management console to provision VMs. The checkbox shows an option, called "enable PowerShell remoting," which sets it up.

The second update to the Windows Azure Virtual Machines component has to do with Linux Secure Shell (SSH) authentication for provisioning VMs. SSH authentication used to be optional, but now it's the default. Microsoft's previous default was to use a password, but it can be omitted now "if you upload a SSH key," the announcement indicated.

Microsoft also improved the Windows Azure Cloud Services component, making things a little easier for developers to remotely connect and debug apps. No longer do they have to enable the Remote Desktop Protocol before deploying the cloud service. Remote desktop support can now be configured "dynamically." This enhancement eliminates a step where an app would have to be redeployed in order to remotely connect to it.

Finally, Microsoft announced the release of a new Windows Azure software development kit for Ruby v0.5.0, which adds developmental support for Windows Azure storage and service bus elements. The kit is part of an open source project available via GitHub and was jointly produced by AppFog and Microsoft.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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