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Microsoft makes Azure faster, bigger and more open

09 Jan 2015

Microsoft has announced new capabilities for Azure, including a secure key vault, a set of larger virtual machines, and an easier way to deploy Docker-based workloads.

Azure Key Vault aims to provide customers with enhanced data protection and compliance, control over encrypted data without having to make any code changes, as well as scalability and improved performance.

Controlling and maintaining the safety of keys and passwords that protect data in the cloud is a significant challenge for organisations, says Corey Sanders, Microsoft Azure director of program management.

Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliances are used to store cryptographic keys on-premise, but they are costly, difficult to manage, can slow down applications and don’t scale to meet the needs of cloud applications, says Sanders.

The Azure Key Vault uses HSMs in the cloud to safeguard and control keys. It can be configured in minutes, has a single programming model, scales to meet your needs and is available in multiple regions to enable application redundancy, says Sanders.

“With Key Vault, customers can easily encrypt a SQL Server Virtual Machine with TDE (Transparent Data Encryption) using the SQL Server Connector available for Key Vault. Furthermore, customers can deploy an encrypted Virtual Machine with CloudLink SecureVM with the master keys in Key Vault,” says Sanders.

Already a preview of Key Vault is available in regions in Europe, the US and Asia, with more regions to be enabled in the coming months.

As well as announcing Key Vault, Microsoft has announced the G-Series, a new series of VM sizes for Azure Virtual Machines.

G-Series sizes have more memory, higher processing power and a larger amount of SSD than any Virtual Machine already available in the public cloud, says Sanders.

The G-Series offers up to 32 vCPUs, 448GB of memory, and 6.59TB of local Solid State Drive (SSD) space. The new sizes also increase the maximum amount of cloud attached data disks to 64, enabling the attachment of up to 64TBs of persistent disks in Azure Storage.

Sanders says these features will allow customers to deploy large and demanding enterprise applications, for instance large relational database servers such as SQL Server and MySQL, as well as big data solutions.

Currently available in Western US, Microsoft is working to add support for the G-Series in additional regions.

Finally, Microsoft continues to embrace Docker as a core part of Azure by releasing a fully integrated Docker engine on an Ubuntu image, says Sanders.

Users can now select a Docker gallery item and provision an Azure Ubuntu VM, and the latest Docker engine will be immediately ready to use. Users will have the flexibility to inject a docker engine into supported Linux VMs, Sanders says.

He says Azure is growing steadily, with more than 10,000 new customers signing up every week, and the Azure team is working to provide innovations at a rapid rate to meet customer’s requirements.

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