Microsoft Launches Disaster Recovery and Cache Support for Azure

Two Microsoft cloud-based solutions became generally available recently: Disaster Recovery to Azure and Redis Cache services.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group, described the new services, as well as other recent Azure improvements, in a a blog post Tuesday. Guthrie is also slated to join Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an event in San Francisco on Oct. 20 to further describe Microsoft's cloud developments (the event will be live streamed at Microsoft's News Center here between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time).

Disaster Recovery to Azure GA
The Disaster Recovery to Azure feature of the Azure Site Recovery service replicates virtual machines between an organization's facilities or from an organization's facilities to Microsoft Azure datacenters. Disaster Recovery to Azure can be used for virtual machine migration purposes or for disaster recovery support. The service includes remote health monitoring and automated protection of virtual machines, which Microsoft backs with a service-level agreement. Microsoft integrated the technology that it acquired with its InMage Systems purchase in July to add hybrid cloud support for its Disaster Recovery for Azure feature.

Microsoft added three new capabilities to Disaster Recovery to Azure for this GA release. For instance, it can now tap Azure Automation, a runbook automation service that's currently available as a preview. Microsoft recently announced that it is building PowerShell scripting into Azure Automation to fully automate all tasks. Another new improvement in the Disaster Recovery to Azure GA release is the ability to track the progress of virtual machine replication across private clouds or to a georedundant Azure Storage account. Lastly, Microsoft is claiming simpler setup for Disaster Recover to Azure, along with other highlights, which are listed here.

Microsoft sells Disaster Recovery to Azure via its Azure Site Recovery pricing page.

Azure Backup for Windows Server 2008
In related backup news, Microsoft just announced that its Azure Backup service (a separate service from Azure Site Recovery) now supports Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 (64 bit). The Azure Backup service previously supported Windows Server 2008 R2, as well as Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. The new Windows Server 2008 support comes with System Center Data Protection Manager integration as well.

The Azure Backup service and the Disaster Recovery to Azure feature of the Azure Site Recovery service will be offered in Enterprise Agreements, starting this month, according to Guthrie's post. He explained it as a single annual subscription offer:

"Each unit of the Azure Backup & Site Recovery annual subscription offer covers protection of a single instance to Azure with Site Recovery, as well as backup of data with Azure Backup," Guthrie wrote.

Redis Cache GA
A Redis Cache is an open source in-memory database that promises to optimize applications that might be slowed down by more traditional relational databases. It's used by developers to append a string or increment a value in a hash, for instance, according to Microsoft's description. Monitoring capabilities are built into the Azure Portal, which is currently at preview status. The Microsoft Azure Redis Cache service works with apps running on Windows or Linux, as hosted on Microsoft Azure. According to Guthrie's post, "the Azure Redis Cache is now the recommended distributed cache solution we advocate for Azure applications."

It's also possible to use the Redis Cache service "to store out-of-process ASP.NET Session State as well as to share Output Cached content across web server instances," according to Guthrie.

Microsoft offers two Azure Redis Cache service plans. The single-cache node Basic plan lacks a service-level agreement and is designed for noncritical workloads or for software development testing. The Standard plan delivers a "multi-node, replicated cache configured in a two-node Master/Replica configuration for high availability" and includes a service-level agreement. The service supports different cache sizes, ranging between 250MB and 53GB at present. Pricing details are available at the Azure Cache page here.

Other Azure Improvements
Guthrie's long post listed other Azure improvements. One of them is a preview of Elastic Scale for Azure SQL Database, which allows expansion of database support for applications via sharding. According to Torsten Grabs, a principal program manager lead on the SQL team, sharding typically requires writing a lot of custom code to get it to work, so Elastic Scale makes things easier for developers, according to a Microsoft-produced Channel 9 video. The Elastic Scale feature is enabled through ".NET client libraries and Azure service templates that you can host," according to a Microsoft blog post explanation. Elastic Scale can be used for activities such as "high-volume OLTP [online transaction processing]" for processing high data volumes, "multitenant SaaS" to meet the needs of tenant customers and "continuous data collection" from Internet-of-things telemetry data, according to the Microsoft blog post.

Guthrie reiterated that Azure DocumentDB is currently at the preview stage, as announced in August. Azure DocumentDB is a kind of NoSQL database service that supports JSON and JavaScript. Microsoft has since added a new Document Explorer feature that lets users "view and access JSON documents." In addition, Microsoft improved collection management and made it easier to view performance measurements for DocumentDB.

The Azure Automation preview has four improvements. It allows authentication to Microsoft Azure via Azure Active Directory, instead of using certificates. It supports "importing PowerShell scripts as runbooks." Microsoft is working on expanding the Runbook Gallery to include PowerShell scripts. Lastly, Microsoft added hourly scheduling to Azure Automation.

Other improvements listed by Guthrie include the ability to tag resources (such as "dev/test" or "production") in the Azure Portal preview, Baidu push notification support in the Azure Notification Hub service, and "static private IP support" in the Azure Portal preview.


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