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Microsoft Unveils Azure RemoteApp, Releases ExpressRoute at TechEd

Microsoft's "cloud-first, mobile-first" vision took the spotlight during Monday's opening keynote of the annual TechEd conference, taking place throughout this week in Houston.

The company is using this year's TechEd event to showcase new services that are aimed at giving users access to data and applications anywhere and on any device. Microsoft is focusing on the role its Azure cloud service and Active Directory can play to deliver secure enterprise infrastructure to all forms of mobile devices. The new services announced on Monday -- including Azure RemoteApp, ExpressRoute and Azure Files -- are designed to let organizations house their data on-premises, in the public cloud or in a hybrid cloud.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson kicked off Monday's keynote by emphasizing that cloud and mobile go hand-in-hand. "You cannot have a cloud without a connected device," Anderson said. "As you think about the connected devices, without that cloud, all you have is potential that goes with it."

He added, "The amount of information that will be at our fingertips will be amazing."

Key to putting that information at users' fingertips will be empowering IT to protect enterprise data, while simultaneously giving users access to information from any device. Microsoft's new Azure RemoteApp product, formerly code-named "Mohoro," will let IT deliver Windows applications to almost any device, including Windows tablets, Macs, iPads and Android tablets.

The preview of Azure RemoteApp is now available to organizations that want to let up to 20 users test the app. Because this is a preview, Microsoft has not yet determined how it will offer the service from a pricing and subscription-model standpoint. Azure RemoteApp will deliver applications -- initially Office in the preview -- to Microsoft's Remote Data Services. The service will be designed to let organizations keep data centrally located and will support up to 1,300 Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

Microsoft has not committed to when it will release the offering, but the company is targeting the end of the year. "Every organization I talk to has a very large inventory of Windows applications they're looking to deliver to mobile devices," Anderson said. "With Azure RemoteApp, users can scale up and down, so their capital expenditures goes down dramatically."

Anderson also made clear that Microsoft intends to be aggressive on the mobile device management front. Microsoft's recently announced Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) will cost $4 per user per month regardless of the number of devices supported, Anderson announced. The company also said that administrators will be able to manage Office for iPad, iPhone and Android devices using EMS. This Windows Intune component of EMS will let administrators manage line-of-business apps running on Android and iOS.

Looking to help IT organizations reduce virtual machine sprawl, Microsoft unveiled Azure Files. Based on the standard SMB 2.1 protocol, Azure Files runs on top of Azure storage and will allow for shared readers and writers. It will also work on-premises, allowing users to access their storage accounts without having to spin up a virtual machine and mange an SMB share. In short, Azure Files will let IT organizations create single file shares that are available from multiple virtual machines.

Finally, Microsoft announced the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute, which lets organizations connect their datacenters directly to Azure without having to use an Internet connection. The service is based on MPLS connectivity from carriers including AT&T, Level 3, Verizon and BT, as well as through colocation provider Equinix. This will appeal to those who want reliable, faster and inherently more secure connectivity, and Microsoft talked up this capability for those who want to use Azure for disaster recovery and business continuity.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.