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Microsoft Boosts Azure VMs with GS-Series

Microsoft on Wednesday launched a new offering aimed at organizations with Azure virtual machines (VMs) that want to scale up their operations.

The new GS-Series offers five VM sizes with the same specifications as the G-Series of VMs that Microsoft rolled out in January. The main difference between the two offerings is that the GS-Series adds enhanced storage capabilities -- up to 64TB, according to Microsoft's announcement. In contrast, the G-Series supports a maximum 6.5TB of local solid-state drive storage. Microsoft lists the GS-Series as supporting a maximum of 80,000 storage I/Os per second.

The GS-Series is for workloads that are "both compute and storage intensive," according to the announcement. Examples include big relational database workloads. The GS-Series can handle SQL Server, MySQL and noSQL database workloads, for instance, as well as data warehouse operations. Microsoft also recommends using the GS-Series to support Exchange and Dynamics workloads.

The GS-Series currently provides "the largest VMs and the fastest storage in the public cloud," according to Microsoft's announcement.

The company has other VM sizes for Azure. The D-Series and DS-Series, with a focus on "CPU performance, memory and local SSD," will be getting discounted by 27 percent, starting on Oct. 1, Microsoft announced.

IT pros managing VMs in Azure also are getting "a new diagnostic capability." It's now possible to see "serial and console output from a running Virtual Machine," Microsoft explained. This capability will help IT pros diagnose "boot or runtime failures."

Azure Middleware and Big Data
In other Azure news, Microsoft added to its middleware solutions for applications with a new Azure Service Bus Premium Messaging offering. The Premium offering is currently at the "preview" stage and supports 1,000 brokered connections per messaging unit at a flat daily rate. There's also a Basic and Standard option, with pricing listed here.

Microsoft also this week added a "technical preview" of Revolution R Enterprise 7.4.1 to the Azure Marketplace. It's a Big Data analytics solution that Microsoft acquired when it bought Revolution Analytics in January. Here's how a Revolution Analytics blog post described the preview:

"Through the Azure Marketplace, users can run computations on data sets up to 1 terabyte on cloud-based Windows and Linux multi-CPU instances from 4 to 32 vCPUs (virtual CPUs), accessing data copied from an Azure data store, including blob storage or SQL Server, or accessed directly through an ODBC connection."

Broadly speaking, Microsoft is planning to integrate Revolution Analytics capabilities into its Azure services, specifically its Cortana Analytics service. Releasing this Azure Marketplace solution is just a "first step" toward that direction, according to the blog post.

For testers, Microsoft also announced the availability of "community technology preview" 2.3 of SQL Server 2016. It adds "row level security" for in-memory OLTP tables, along with other optimizations.

Azure Storage and Azure Backup
Microsoft's Azure Premium Storage offerings will be expanding worldwide. By Q4, Microsoft expects to expand it to Azure regions that currently don't have it, including Central U.S., East U.S., North Europe and East Asia, according to an announcement. The Azure Premium Storage service is for organizations putting "I/O intensive workloads" on Azure VMs using solid-state drive technology. The service supports 64,000 I/O operations per second per VM.

Those organizations backing up Azure VMs using Microsoft's Azure Backup service now have access to a few new features. It's now possible to use 16 data disks on top of the OS disk to backup virtual machines. In addition, Microsoft improved backup retention times. Backups of VMs can now be retained for "up to 99 years," according to Microsoft's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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