Microsoft adds more new networking capabilities to its Windows Azure cloud

In its quest to go head-to-head with Amazon on the cloud front, Microsoft is adding even more enterprise networking capabilities to its Windows Azure cloud platform.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Just over a week after announcing general availability of Windows Azure's new infrastructure as a service capbilities, the Azure team added more networking, virtual machine and development kit support.


On April 26, Microsoft announced new point-to-site connectivity, software virtual private network (VPN) device and Dynamic DNS support are available for those using the Azure Virtual Networks feature in Azure, according to a blog post by Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie.

Windows Azure Virtual Networks -- the technology formerly codenamed "Brooklyn" -- is one of the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) pieces of Azure that Microsoft made generally available as of April 16. Microsoft is planning to use these IaaS features, coupled with a price-match guarantee, to go head-to-head with Amazon on the public-cloud front.

Azure Virtual Networks allows users to create private, isolated networks in Azure and "treat it as an extension of your on-premises datacenter," Guthrie explained. With the just-added functionality, users also can set up VPN connections between individual computers and the Azure virtual network without a dedicated VPN device. Users can use the built-in Windows VPN client to tunnel into their Virtual Networks in Azure using the Secure Sockets Tunneling Protocol (SSTP).

Update: Here's Microsoft's Guided Labs scenario with lots of how-to information for those looking to extend their private networks with Azure Virtual Networks.

As of late last week, there also is software VPN device support for Azure's "Site-to-Site VPN," which previously required the use of a hardware VPN device from Cisco or Juniper. Those with Windows Server 2012 can run a PowerShell script that will enable a site-to-site VPN tunnel connecting on-premises network and machines to Azure Virtual Networks, Guthrie said.

Late last week, the Azure team also added remote PowerShell and Linux SSH provisioning enhancements and the ability to enable remote desktop support dynamically on Web/Worker roles. There's also new Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) for Ruby.

Guthrie noted in a recent interview with me that the Azure team is rolling out new features and functionality every three weeks, if not more frequently.

Microsoft recently decided to refocus its efforts on another previously announced Azure networking technology -- Windows Azure Connect (codenamed "Sydney"). I noticed Microsoft in the past week or so removed references to Azure Connect from the Azure networking page, though references to it still do exist on MSDN.

"Connect was a machine-to-Azure networking technology," Bill Hilf, General Manager of Windows Azure, told me recently. "Over time, Brooklyn will be a superset (of Azure Connect). There won't be two different sets of bits. But we will get machine-toAzure networking technology into Azure over time."

Microsoft officials recently said that the company now has 200,000 Windows Azure customers, though they won't say how many of these are paying customers and/or how many are customers outside of Microsoft's own teams/divisions.

In mid-2010, Microsoft officials said they had 10,000 Azure customers (with the same caveats as above).

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