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Azure Portal Management Solution Hits General Availability

Microsoft's Azure Portal solution, which is used to manage various Azure resources, reached the general availability (GA) stage this week.

The GA status means that Microsoft considers the portal to be ready for commercial use. Leon Welicki, a principal program manager for Microsoft Azure, noted in an announcement that it's "been a long journey" to get the portal to that state.

Azure Portal has been at the preview stage for at least a year, if not longer. It eventually will replace the current portal, which Microsoft calls "the classic portal." However, for many months, organizations maintaining Azure operations have had to switch between the two portals, depending on the resources they use.

Right now, the Azure Portal supports 26 Azure services versus 23 services for the classic portal, per Microsoft's Azure portal compatibility chart. Typically, it's the Azure Portal that first supports a new Azure service that reaches commercial availability. In the past, that situation has meant that organizations have had to use a tool at the preview stage (Azure Portal preview) to manage commercial Azure services (such as Azure Virtual Machines), which may have seemed somewhat odd.

That mixed message now goes away with Azure Portal's commercial release, although Microsoft is committed to future improvements as part of its agile development practices. However, organizations still will have to use the classic portal for some Azure services. For instance, today the classic portal needs to be used for services such as API Management, Machine Learning and Traffic Manager, among others. Eventually, all Azure services will be accessible in the Azure Portal, Microsoft is promising.

To avoid some of the portal switching, Microsoft improved the "Browse" experience in the Azure Portal to make it easier to access services in both the classic portal and the Azure Portal, per its announcement. A search box was added at the top of Azure Portal. Microsoft made the settings in the portal more consistent and simplified the "blade" resources. The blade term is Microsoft's label for parts of the user interface that show Azure resources, such as SQL Databases, Websites and Virtual Machines, among others.

The startup performance of Azure Portal is now 50 percent faster. Resource blades now load 300 percent faster, Microsoft indicated.

Reader reaction to Microsoft's Azure Portal GA announcement was somewhat mixed. A common critique was that Microsoft focused more on design than on production environment needs. Microsoft MVP Trevor Sullivan agreed, in part.

"I tend to agree that the focus was on making the experience 'pretty' instead of functional," Sullivan wrote in the announcement's comments section. "On the positive side, performance is significantly better than where it used to be, and I would consider the performance to be acceptable, and even 'good.'"

Microsoft's "user voice" site for comments on the Azure Portal echoed that UI critique. However, the old tree-structure design of the classic portal had to go. Microsoft explained in its documentation contrasting the two portals that "applications built on Azure are a collection of interconnected services, and this tree structure [of the classic portal] isn't ideal for working with collections of services."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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