This morning we released some fantastic enhancements to Windows Azure:
- Dev/Test in the Cloud: MSDN Use Rights, Unbeatable MSDN Discount Rates, MSDN Monetary Credits
- BizTalk Services: Great new service for Windows Azure that enables EDI and EAI integration in the cloud
- Per-Minute Billing and No Charge for Stopped VMs: Now only get charged for the exact minutes of compute you use, no compute charges for stopped VMs
- SSL Support with Web Sites: Support for both IP Address and SNI based SSL bindings on custom web-site domains
- Active Directory: Updated directory sync utility, ability to manage Office 365 directory tenants from Windows Azure Management Portal
- Free Trial: More flexible Free Trial offer
There are so many improvements that I’m going to have to write multiple blog posts to cover all of them! Below is a quick summary of today’s updates at a high-level:
Dev/Test in the Cloud
Windows Azure provides a great environment for dev/test. This is true both for scenarios where you want to dev/test in the cloud and then run the production app in the cloud, as well as for scenarios where you want to dev/test in the cloud and then run the production app using an existing on-premises server environment.
Windows Azure’s new IaaS and Virtual Networking capabilities make it really easy to enable enterprise development teams to use the cloud to do this. Using the cloud for dev/test enables development teams to work in a flexible, agile, way without ever being bottlenecked waiting for resources from their IT department. Development teams can instead use Windows Azure in a self-service way to spin up or down resources in minutes. And then when they are ready to deploy their apps they can choose to do so either in the cloud or using their existing on-premises servers. This later option makes it really easy to start leveraging the cloud even without having to fully bet on it yet for production scenarios.
Today we are announcing a number of enhancements to Windows Azure that make it an even better environment in which to do dev/test:
- No Charge for Stopped VMs
- Pay by the Minute Billing
- MSDN Use Rights now supported on Windows Azure
- Heavily Discounted MSDN Dev/Test Rates
- MSDN Monetary Credits
- Portal Support for Better Tracking MSDN Monetary Credit Usage
The combination enables an amazing Dev/Test cloud solution, and an unbeatable offer for all MSDN customers. Read my detailed blog post on the new Dev/Test offering to learn more.
I’m excited to announce a new Windows Azure service we are launching into preview today - Windows Azure BizTalk Services.
Windows Azure BizTalk Services provides Business-to-Business (B2B) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) capabilities for cloud and hybrid integration solutions. It includes built-in support for managing EDI relationships between partners, as well as EAI bridges with on-premises assets – including built-in support for integrating with on-premises SAP, SQL Server, Oracle and Siebel systems. You can also optionally integrate Windows Azure BizTalk Services with on-premises BizTalk Server deployments – enabling powerful hybrid enterprise solutions.
BizTalk Services runs on a secure, dedicated per tenant, environment that you can provision on demand in a matter of minutes. It does not require any upfront license, and supports a pay only for what you use billing model. Click here to learn more about how to setup and starting using the Windows Azure BizTalk Services preview today.
Per Minute Billing and No Charge for Stopped VMs
Prior to today, when you stopped a VM on Windows Azure we kept a reserved deployment spot for it inside one of our compute clusters, and continued to bill you for the VM compute unless you explicitly deleted the deployment. Now, with today’s update, when you stop a VM we no longer charge you any compute time for it while it is stopped – yet we still preserve the deployment state and configuration. This makes it incredibly easy to stop VMs when you aren’t actively using them to avoid billing charges, and then restart them when you want to use them again.
Prior to today, our pricing model for compute resources on Windows Azure billed at the per-hour granularity. This meant if you ran a VM for 6 minutes in an hour and then turned it off, we would still charge you for a full hour of usage. Now, with today’s update, we are billing at a per-minute granularity. So if you run a VM (or Cloud Service, or Web Site, or Mobile Service) for only 6 minutes in an hour, we now only charge you for the actual 6 minutes of compute usage (we pro-rate the hourly price – so the billed price is num_minutes * (hr rate)/60).
These two changes are great for a variety of scenarios. They are especially useful for scenarios where you are often cycling up/down resources in a very elastic way (for example: Dev/Test or other elastic workloads). Now you can do so and save more money.
SSL Support with Web Sites
With today’s update, Windows Azure Web Sites now support Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for custom domains.
SSL encryption is the most commonly used method of securing data sent across the internet, and you can now upload your own SSL Certificate that you can use to enable with custom domains hosted via Windows Azure Web Sites. With today’s release we now support the ability to setup both IP Address Based SSL Bindings as well as SNI Based SSL Bindings.
Active Directory: Directory Sync Tool, Manage existing Directories
Today’s update brings a number of improvements to Windows Azure Active Directory.
Among the more significant updates is a free new directory sync utility that you can download. It makes it super easy to sync existing on-premises Active Directory deployments with Windows Azure Active Directory. The directory sync tool works with Windows Server 2003 and above, and enables you to securely sync your directory without having to setup ADFS. This dramatically simplifies the steps required to enable your directory in the cloud.
Today’s update also includes support to manage an existing Windows Azure Active Directory (such as the one that your organization already uses with Office 365) with a Windows Azure account. Included as part of this support is the ability to manage an existing Active Directory with a Windows Azure account that is setup using a Microsoft ID account (assuming you have also been made an admin of the active directory tenant). This makes it even easier to integrate your Windows Azure and Office 365 resources together.
With today’s update we are also updating our Windows Azure Free Trial to provide an even simpler and more flexible free trial experience.
Prior to today, our free trial used to include a fixed quantity of individual resources (for example: 750 compute hours). We heard feedback from trial users that:
- Trial users had to keep track of usage for each of these resources
- If they went over one of the resource quotas, their subscription was disabled
- Inadequate notifications were given when they were about to exceed their quotas
With today’s release we are making substantial changes to how Windows Azure Free Trials are experienced by customers. With a free trial, you now get a monthly Windows Azure credit of $200. This credit can be applied to any service of your choice. This makes it much easier to try out the services of your choice – and means there are no individual resource quotas on what you can do. You can instead spend the $200 however and on anything you want.
Both the Windows Azure Management Portal as well as Accounts Center will also now provide built-in UI that lets you know the current status of your remaining Windows Azure Credit balance and the number of days remaining to use your free credit. This makes it really easy to see what you’ve consumed so far, and how much you have to go before it is all used up.
I am really excited about today’s release – there a ton of great new improvements for everyone to take advantage of. If you don’t already have a Windows Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using all of the above features today. Visit the Windows Azure Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with it.
Hope this helps,
P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at: twitter.com/scottgu