Microsoft updates Windows Azure Web Sites, Active Directory previews

Microsoft has added new updates to its Azure Web-hosting and directory service offerings.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft rolled out previews of a number of its Windows Azure technologies earlier this year. In the past week-plus, the team has updated these previews with some new features.

(Because these are "services" rather than "software," Microsoft seems to prefer to position these as "rolling updates" to the preview, rather than as a new version of the preview. The Softies' preferred naming convention sseems to to refer to these as updates to the original previews rather than "Preview 2" or "Preview 3," etc. Microsoft is expected to continue to deliver updates to its Azure previews as it heads towards general availability of these various new cloud services. I'm now thinking the wave of latest Azure updates is what some of my contacts described as "RTMing" in August and being rolled out in September.)


First up: Windows Azure Active Directory, or WAAD, for short. WAAD is a cloud implementation of Microsoft's Active Directory directory service. A number of Microsoft cloud properties already are using WAAD, including the Windows Azure Online Backup, Windows Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows InTune.

Last week, Microsoft announced it was adding three new sets of capabilities to the WAAD preview which it rolled out in July 2012.

The three new additions:

Microsoft also announced on September 17 updates to Windows Azure Web Sites (codenamed Antares). Azure Web Sites is a hosting framework for Web applications and sites created using various languages and stacks -- including a number of open-source, non-Microsoft-developed ones. Microsoft's goal is to make this hosting framework available for both the cloud and on premises on Windows Servers, so that companies can use it as a hosting environment for public or private cloud sites and apps.


The newly announced additions to Azure Web Sites include a shared-mode scaling option; support for custom domains with shared and reserved mode web-sites using both CNAME and A-Records (the latter enabling naked domains -- (e.g. http://microsoft.com in addition to http://www.microsoft.com); and continuous deployment support using both CodePlex and GitHub, and FastCGI extensibility.

"We will also in the future enable Server Name Indication (SNI)-based SSL as a built-in feature with shared mode web-sites," blogged Server and Tools Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie, who noted that this functionality isn’t supported with today’s release, but will be coming later this year to both the shared and reserved tiers.

When using reserved instance mode, an Azure customer's sites are guaranteed to run isolated within their own Small, Medium or Large virtual machine, meaning no other customers run within it, Guthrie explained. Users can run any number of web-sites within a VM, and there are no quotas on CPU or memory limits, he added.

"All of these improvements are now live in production and available to start using immediately," Guthrie said.

"We’ll have even more new features and enhancements coming in the weeks ahead – including support for the recent Windows Server 2012 and .NET 4.5 releases (we will enable new web and worker role images with Windows Server 2012 and .NET 4.5 next month)," Guthrie added.


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