Microsoft beefs up Windows Azure with push and disaster-recovery updates

Improved database availability and push notifications are among a string of new capabilities for the Windows Azure cloud.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

Microsoft says new features for Windows Azure, including better push notification and disaster recovery, will save mobile developers time and improve SQL Server availability.

The Azure cloud platform now offers SQL Server AlwaysOn Groups, the high-availability and disaster-recovery technology introduced with SQL Server 2012.

According to Microsoft, this update means its cloud supports "the complete SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups technology stack with Windows Azure Virtual Machines — including enabling support for SQL Server Availability Group Listeners".

Microsoft said the advantages of SQL Server AlwaysOn Groups over database mirroring include multi-database failover, multiple replicas, readable secondary replicas, configurable failover policies, backups on secondary replicas, and easier monitoring.

Azure Notification Hubs are also among the features that Microsoft announced on Tuesday as being now being generally available. This capability is designed to allow mobile apps to deliver personalised push notifications rapidly to devices running Android, iOS and Windows.

Configuring an application backend to deliver personalised push notifications with low latency at significant scale, Microsoft said, has been cumbersome and expensive.

A full push notification infrastructure involved writing code for each service, building a personalisation system and then spinning up hundreds of virtual machines in parallel to enable low latency.

Microsoft said sending push notifications through multiple notification services using Windows Azure Notification Hubs is achievable "with just a few lines of code".

The company said it is adding further features to its autoscale technology, which allows Windows Azure to be configured so that it automatically scales applications dynamically and adjusts the number of instances running in response to the app load.

For example, IT departments will now be able to create time-scheduled rules to adjust cloud service instance counts. The autoscale feature remains in preview, rather than on general availability.

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