Microsoft introduced some major updates to Windows Azure on Monday, including the general availability of SQL Server AlwaysOn support.
Other updates include the general release of Windows Azure notification hubs, schedule-based AutoScale rules, a new portal extension for operation logs and alerts, and improvements to load balancer configuration and management.
The focus on automation is certainly a selling-point for the cloud developer customer, of which Azure seems to have a lot of. A recent Forrester survey pegged Windows Azure and AWS as the two most commonly used platforms for enterprise cloud developers.
According to a blog post announcing the updates, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in Microsoft’s developer division, customers can now use SQL Server AlwaysOn within Windows Azure VMs to achieve high availability and business continuity. The technology can also be used to enable on-premise SQL Server solutions across one or more secondary replicas running in the cloud using Windows Azure VMs. So, in the event of a local data center outage, companies can failover and continue operations using VMs that have been deployed in the cloud.
With enterprises turning to Azure in hybrid cloud implementations, the ability to use SQL Server AlwaysOn for disaster recovery is a welcome addition.
Windows Azure Notification Hubs enables users to send large volumes of push notifications to Windows 8, iOS and Android mobile devices with minimal coding.
Notification Hubs will be free until September 30, after that billing will be based on Basic or Standard tier usage, with a free tier continuing to offer 100,000 notifications with 500 devices each month.
Improvements to Azure’s autoscale technology enable users to proactively adjust cloud instance counts using time scheduled rules. Autoscale can also be done dynamically by reacting to CPU activity or Queue Depth, Guthrie says.