Cloud Platform Release Announcements for March 31, 2016

This week at //Build 2016, we highlighted a number of key announcements that demonstrate how the Microsoft Cloud Platform is the most complete solution for modern developer scenarios across web and mobile, IoT, microservices, and data analytics. Outlined below are the key announcements:

  • Azure Batch support for Linux | GA
  • Azure Data Catalog | GA
  • Azure Functions | Public preview
  • Azure IoT Gateway SDK | Pre-disclosure at //Build
  • Azure IoT Hub | Pre-disclosure: Feature (device management)
  • Azure IoT Starter Kits | Available to purchase
  • Azure Machine Learning | PP - Jupyter Notebook - Gallery and R update
  • Azure Marketplace | Public preview
  • Azure Service Fabric | GA - Azure
  • Azure Service Fabric | Linux demo and private preview
  • Azure Service Fabric | Windows Server runtime preview
  • Cortana Analytics Suite | Cortana Analytics perceptual intelligence updates
  • Cortana Intelligence Competitions | Public preview
  • DocumentDB for MongoDB | Public preview
  • HockeyApp | GA features
  • HockeyApp | Preseason additions
  • Hyper-V Containers on Windows 10 for Server Developers
  • Microsoft Power BI Embedded | Microsoft Power BI Embedded
  • Operations Management Suite Log Analytics with enhanced security insight | Public preview
  • Power BI Desktop | March update
  • PowerShell for Docker
  • SQL Server Developer Edition Pricing Change | Pricing change announcement
  • Storage Service Encryption | Public preview
  • Visual Studio "15" | Public preview
  • Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 and Team Foundation Server 2015 Update 2 | GA
  • Visual Studio Application Insights | Public preview
  • VM Scale sets | GA

Azure Batch support for Linux | GA

Azure Batch now supports Linux Virtual Machines

With support for Linux now, Azure Batch enables customers who want to scale their Linux based compute-intensive workloads to hundreds or thousands of VMs to get resources on Azure without having to manage the infrastructure. Linux support for Azure Batch focuses on compute intensive jobs that can be parallelized on multiple VMs especially for high performance computing workloads. Please refer to the Azure Batch site to learn more.

Azure Data Catalog | GA

Azure Data Catalog is an enterprise-wide metadata catalog enabling self-service data asset discovery. It’s a fully managed service in Azure. The Data Catalog stores, describes, indexes and provides information on how to access any registered data asset and makes data source discovery trivial. It facilitates collaboration and is designed to help close the gap between those who seek information and those who create it.

In contrast to the traditional metadata management solutions that are typically targeted at IT, Azure Data Catalog focuses on bridging the gap between IT and the business. It allows for crowd sourced annotations that will help empower the users with the knowledge of the data to enrich the system during use by enabling them to capture their knowledge of each data asset as they are discovered. This while IT can still maintain control and oversight as the system evolves and can lock down visibility to selected assets as the need occurs.

For more information about the capabilities available with the service, please visit the Azure Data Catalog documentation.

Azure Data Catalog is offered in both a Free and a Standard Edition. The general availability pricing will be in effect starting May 1, 2016.

Review the general availability pricing information on the Azure Data Catalog pricing page.

Azure Functions | Public preview

Events happen, all the time. Users browse your website, data is uploaded/downloaded or moved, messages are sent and received. All across the IT landscape actions are creating events, but are you taking full advantage of them? Imagine if you could react to events happening across your app portfolio in real time, what would you do? Maybe a photo gets saved to some storage area, the act of the photo being saved generates an event that could be intercepted to start a process to check the photo for interesting data. It wouldn’t matter how the photo was saved, it just matters that it was.

Azure Functions extends Azure’s application platform by offering serverless compute for event-driven solutions. Azure Functions lets developers easily handle tasks that respond to events common in web and mobile applications, IoT and big data scenarios. Azure Functions works with Azure and third party services, automatically scales out to meet demand and only charges for the time your function runs. With an open source runtime, developers will be able host Functions anywhere - on Azure, in your datacenter or on other clouds.

Azure Functions allows developers to program functions in JavaScript, C#, Python and PHP or scripting options such as Bash, Batch, and PowerShell using either an intuitive, web-based development environment that allows you to develop directly against your function or by uploading pre-compiled function written in the development tool of your choice. Pre-built Input/Output bindings provide a means of pulling or pushing data to many of the most common Azure third party services, saving developers from having to build these bindings themselves. However, the open source nature of Azure Functions allows you to build your own bindings for services not already supported.

Azure IoT Gateway SDK | Pre-disclosure at //Build

During //Build, we are pre-announcing the introduction of new tools for IoT developers and enterprises alike.

Azure IoT Gateway SDK enables legacy devices and sensors to connect to the Azure cloud without having to replace existing infrastructure. It also enables developers to easily build and deploy modules for edge intelligence—the ability to optimize and process data before it’s sent to the cloud.

The Azure IoT Gateway SDK is currently being tested by early adopters. It will be generally available in Q2 2016. For more information, please read our Blog here.

Azure IoT Hub | Pre-disclosure: Feature (device management)

During //Build on 3/31, we are pre-announcing new device management capabilities in IoT Hub.

Device management in Azure IoT Hub is being used by early adopters to make it easier and more cost-effective for medium and large, global businesses to remotely maintain, interact with and manage IoT devices at scale from the cloud.

Device management is a new capability in Azure IoT Hub that takes a standards-based approach to understand IoT health, configuration, and firmware updates across millions of remote devices. Device management is enabled natively through Azure IoT Hub, and as a feature of that service, does not incur additional charges.

We will be releasing a public preview of IoT Hub including standards based device management capabilities at scale in several weeks.

For more information, please read our blog post.

Azure IoT Starter Kits | Available to purchase

During BUILD, we are announcing the availability of  Microsoft Azure IoT Starter Kits, which make IoT more accessible by enabling developers to design, prototype and test new devices for use in any IoT solution.

With Azure Certified for IoT development boards, actuators, sensors and simple, user-friendly tutorials, these five kits allow anyone with Windows or Linux experience – developers, device makers, students or hobbyists – to quickly build IoT prototypes, for $50-160.

Once a prototype is ready for full-scale deployment, users will be able to leverage all of Azure’s IoT offerings.

For more information, please read our blog and get started with Starter Kits here.

Jupyter notebooks (formerly IPython) provide a highly productive canvas for data scientists and developers to explore ideas. At its heart, Jupyter is a multi-lingual REPL (read, eval, print and loop), where you can enter code and get a response. The response can be program output, a graph, etc. The notebook is comprised of interspersed code and markdown text for documentation purposes.

Last July, we had announced the public preview availability of Python Jupyter notebooks on Azure Machine Learning.

Today, we are pleased to announce that we’ve integrated R in Jupyter Notebooks inside AzureML Studio in Public Preview. Thanks to these capabilities, you can now:

  • Provide an interactive coding and notebook environment, hosted in the Azure Machine Learning Studio.
  • Making it possible to communicate between the Studio and R Notebooks, specifically downloading datasets and intermediate datasets.
  • Ability to publish a web service to Azure Machine Learning Studio directly from R (or the R Notebook), and being able to call the web service created.

Furthermore, a new section dedicated to Notebooks has been created in the Cortana Analytics Gallery. This section appears as a new entity type in the Gallery, enabling users to use gallery notebooks as a starting point while interacting with the Azure Machine Learning Service.

Integrated with the Azure Machine Learning Studio, you can explore your datasets, write code, and build models conveniently from Notebook.

Please discover right now the dedicated Notebook section in the Cortana Analytics Gallery. Try out this new feature and do not hesitate to give us feedback on the Azure ML forum.

For more information, please read the detailed posts about the Jupyter section in the Gallery and the Jupyter Notebook capability on Azure ML.

Azure Marketplace | Public preview

Azure Marketplace launches public preview of “Test Drives” at //Build

Microsoft is excited to announce the ability for software partners to create and publish “test drives” for their applications on Azure Marketplace.

What is a “test drive”?  From the customer’s perspective, it’s this: I want to experience Trend Micro’s Deep Security running on Azure, but I don’t want to deal with any hassle. I just want to be able to jump right into the experience with a couple of clicks and check it out so I can decide whether it’s right for me.

That’s an Azure Marketplace “test drive”. Sign up, check it out.  No need to create an Azure subscription. No need for a credit card. Just click and go.

Microsoft couldn’t be more excited to announce its launch partners for the Azure Marketplace test drive public preview: NetApp, YellowFin, SUSE, DataStax, Trend Micro, Consensys, OutSystems, AllDigital, SoftNas, VMTurbo, and MapR. Check out their test drives here.

Look for awesome test drives coming very soon from K2, DataGuise, Fortinet, Chef, and CheckPoint. If you are a current or future software partner interested in publishing a test drive to Azure Marketplace, please share some info with us.

Azure Service Fabric | GA | Linux Demo and Private Preview| Windows Server runtime preview

Announcing Azure Service Fabric general availability

Azure Service Fabric is a platform that developers and ISVs can use to build and manage custom microservice-based applications at cloud scale and with 24x7 availability. Microservices are an architectural approach based on fine-grained, loosely coupled services that can enable advanced developer agility, cloud scale, self-healing resilience and always on availability. Service Fabric is the foundation for many Microsoft services such as Azure SQL Database, Azure Document DB, Cortana, Windows Intune, and Skype for Business.

We’ve taken the exact same technology that we use internally and made it available to you and you can use Service Fabric wherever you want to run your apps; in Azure (GA), in your own datacenter or in other clouds (Windows Server preview, Linux coming soon) giving you maximum flexibility and portability for your applications.

To learn more and get started with Service Fabric please visit Service Fabric on

Cortana Analytics Suite | Cortana Analytics perceptual intelligence updates

For //Build, we are announcing new capabilities that will enable our customers to build intelligent solutions and agents that can augment their organizational capabilities in exciting new ways. These new capabilities will be integrated into the Cortana Intelligence Suite which is the new name for Cortana Analytics Suite. These are:

  • Microsoft Cognitive Services (preview): Is a set of cloud services, APIs and SDKs that are part of Cortana Intelligence. Cognitive Services enables organizations to build intelligent solutions that can see, hear, interpret and understand the world around you and makes all applications more intelligent and engaging. Cognitive Services expands the existing perceptual intelligence capabilities like Vision, Speech, Text and Face detection to include new cognitive capabilities such as Emotion and customized Language Understanding. For more information, please check out the Cognitive Services site.
  • Microsoft Bot Framework (preview): Enables organizations to build intelligent agents (Bots) that allow your users to interact with your intelligent solutions in more contextual and natural ways, from text/sms to Office365 mail to Skype, Slack. The Bot Framework provides developers with a developer portal & SDK to build your bot, a bot connector service to connect to social channels, such as Slack, and soon a bot directory to discover and use existing bots. Visit the Microsoft Bot Framework site for more information.

Cortana Intelligence Competitions | Public preview

We are announcing Cortana Intelligence Competitions. Cortana Intelligence competitions allows us to unite a global community of data enthusiasts by collectively solving some of world’s most complex data science problems. Cortana Intelligence competitions allows data enthusiasts from across the world to compete and build highly accurate and intelligent data science models. Our hosted competitions are based on unique data sets that have been made available publically for the first time. Participants can win rewards or get recognition via our top 10 public leaderboard.

Our inaugural competition is based on one of the greatest challenges faced by 21st century science – the human brain. Effectively analyzing the impact of visual stimuli on a brain can have significant medical benefits ranging from early prediction of epileptic seizures, strokes, and other brain related disorders. For this competition, participants have to build the most intelligent model and accurately predict the image shown to a person based on neural data from the brain.

Participate today and refer to the FAQ page to see if your questions have been answered.

DocumentDB for MongoDB | Public preview

Azure DocumentDB is introducing protocol support for MongoDB as well as pricing, storage, and throughput options for customers developing high-performance and high-scale applications. DocumentDB is the fully managed NoSQL database service on Azure that provides query over low-latency, automatically indexed data. New capabilities include:

  • DocumentDB introduces protocol support for MongoDB (preview): In preview today, applications can now easily and transparently communicate with DocumentDB using existing, community supported Apache License MongoDB APIs and drivers. Customers now use existing MongoDB toolchains and skills to develop applications that leverage DocumentDB, a scalable NoSQL database service. Additionally, Parse customers looking to migrate now have a fully-managed, end-to-end cloud solution on Azure. For more information on using DocumentDB protocol support for MongoDB, visit this site.
  • Expanded throughput and storage options for high-scale workloads: Customers can now scale the reserved throughput of a DocumentDB collection from hundreds of Request Units (RUs) per second to hundreds of thousands of RUs per second. Collections can now expand to meet the high storage and throughput needs of applications. For more information on creating collections for high throughput and storage applications, please visit the partitioned collections webpage.
  • Flexible pricing options for data and throughput: A new pricing model lets customers grow application data without the need to provision additional throughput. Customers can now reserve throughput independent of storage. Throughput is billed on reserved capacity and SSD-backed storage is billed on GB consumed. Customers can define the performance of a collection using this new pricing model or use an existing predefined collection size. For more information on the new pricing model, go to the DocumentDB pricing page.

HockeyApp | GA features

The HockeyApp team is happy to be bringing new features and SDKs to our customers! It is becoming easier than ever to develop, monitor and deploy or cross platform applications. Our Xamarin SDK is available on NuGet and provides you with crash reports, in-app-feedback, and user metrics. Integration with Visual Studio 2015 makes it easier than ever to quickly upload your apps to HockeyApp, and get them into the hands of your testers.  Support for Azure Active Directory means you can now manage your users, and teams in one place.

Visit our //Build 2016 page to learn more about our announcements. And connect with us @HockeyApp to stay up-to-date on all the latest changes.

HockeyApp | Preseason additions

Today, the HockeyApp Preseason program is announcing some great new features that we are excited for you to try. We are extending our User Metrics feature to give you information on how many users are impacted by a particular crash and we are adding custom event tracking so you can instrument your app to give you the data you want! We are also introducing integration with CodePush, allowing you to trigger CodePush updates through HockeyApp. Lastly, we are introducing .Net native symbolication on crash reports.

Preseason is free to join for all current HockeyApp plans, so we encourage you to sign up today. Visit our //Build 2016 page to learn more about our announcements. And connect with us @HockeyApp to stay up-to-date on all the latest changes.

Hyper-V Containers on Windows 10 for Server Developers

Developers running Windows 10 can natively build Windows Server 2016 applications though the magic of Hyper-V Containers and Docker without ever needing to start a virtual machine. The Windows Server based containers they build right from their Windows 10 laptop can then be easily shipped off to run on Windows Server 2016 in Azure, on premise or in any cloud they choose.

Microsoft Power BI Embedded | Microsoft Power BI Embedded

Microsoft announced that the Microsoft Power BI Embedded Service Public Preview is now available. Microsoft Power BI Embedded is a new Azure service that allows Application Developers to embed stunning, fully interactive reports and visualizations into customer facing apps without the time and expense of having to build your own controls from the ground-up. You can choose from a broad range of Power BI data visualizations that come out of the box, or easily build custom visualizations to meet your application’s unique needs. Remain in complete control of your cost with a pay-as-you-go, consumption-based pricing model with no upfront costs, hidden maintenance fees or customization charges.

Visit the Power BI blog to know more about this launch announcement. Get started now by visiting the Power BI Embedded page.

Operations Management Suite Log Analytics with enhanced security insight | Public preview

Operations Management Suite Security and Audit Solution helps you perform forensic analysis, security breach pattern investigations, and enables audit scenarios.

With built-in search queries for notable security issues, it helps you focus on the things that require your attention. With an out-of-the-box security posture view and security contextual view, you get a holistic view into your IT environment.

All views provide the ability to drill-down and get deep insights into your entire infrastructure using a powerful search tool that correlates data among security artifacts such as Windows security events logs, audit policy records, Firewall logs, and AppLocker events.

Learn more here.

Power BI Desktop | March update

We are excited to announce the Power BI Desktop March Update is now available, delivering additional features and enhancements to help the business analysts get more insights quickly. This March Update includes a number of new features and enhancements including:

  • SAP BW Connector (preview)
  • DirectQuery for Oracle and Teradata out of preview.

Check out the Power BI blog for more information and download the latest Power BI Desktop.

PowerShell for Docker

Developers and IT Professional love PowerShell and they love containers – we are announcing the start of a new open source project bringing the two together – PowerShell for Docker. This new module is being developed as part of our ongoing commitment to the Docker Project to enable PowerShell users to build, ship and run containers all from there PowerShell windows across Windows or Linux hosts and replaces the current inbox container module that did not integrate with Docker.

SQL Server Developer Edition pricing change | Pricing change announcement

Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition is now free

Exciting news! Starting today, SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition is now a free download for Visual Studio Dev Essentials members.

We are making this change so that all developers can leverage the capabilities that SQL Server 2014 has to offer for their data solutions. SQL Server Developer Edition is for development and testing only, and not for production environments or for use with production data.

SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition offers the full feature set of SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition, and allows you to build almost any kind of database solution on top of SQL Server. SQL Server 2014 delivers mission critical performance across all workloads with in-memory with in-memory built-in, faster insights from any data with familiar tools, and a platform for hybrid cloud enabling organizations to easily build, deploy, and manage solutions that span on-premises and cloud. To learn more about the value proposition of SQL Server 2014, read the datasheet. SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition, when released later this year, will also be free. To learn more about the exciting new features in SQL Server 2016, read the datasheet.

For customers needing a comprehensive database development solution, we also offer Visual Studio Professional and Visual Studio Enterprise subscriptions.

To learn more, visit the SQL Server blog.

Storage Service Encryption | Public preview

Azure Storage is announcing the preview of Storage Service Encryption. This feature is available for Azure Blob Storage (Block and Page Blobs). It is available upon request for any new storage account created through Azure Resource Manager. During preview, for accounts enabled with this feature, data will be encrypted using Microsoft managed keys. Data is encrypted using the industry leading Encryption algorithm, 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256). In addition, this a fully managed encryption process as Microsoft performs key management, rotation and compliance with key standards. Customers with security and compliance requirement can take advantage of this feature.

Learn More:

Visual Studio "15" | Public

Visual Studio “15” Preview is the first public preview of the next major version of Visual Studio. The new features include a lightweight and fast acquisition experience, code base navigation without projects and solutions, new C# languages features, new JavaScript language service, and other improvements around developer productivity.

Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 and Team Foundation Server 2015 Update 2 | GA

Today at //Build 2016 we released the final version of Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 and Team Foundation Server 2015 Update 2. Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 has been all about improving performance and reliability, and addressing your feedback. For the complete list of improvements available in this update, check out the Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 RTM release notes and Team Foundation Server Update 2 RTM release notes.

Visual Studio Application Insights | Public preview

The Application Insights team is excited to be brining you new features to streamline your triage and diagnostics steps, while at the same time integrating more deeply into your daily workflows.

Live Stream is a new view into the key metrics of your app – coming to you real time so you always know how your app is performing right now.  Our new Application Map gives you a view of how each component of your application is performing, letting you quickly focus in on where an issue may be occurring.  Near Real Time Detection is our latest machine learning feature that detects anomalies within minutes, gather related information for troubleshooting such as exceptions, traces and/or failed dependencies, and sends you an email alert to let you know there is a problem. All of this now gives you more visibility than ever into the state of your application.

We are also introducing integration with your ALM and DevOps tools, allowing you to create work items in Visual Studio Team Services from Application Insights; as well as use deployment annotations from Release Management to be able to identify points of change in your application.

To learn more about the capabilities described above, and some other great features that were recently released please check out our recent posts on the Azure blog. Connect with us @AppInsights to stay up to date on all the latest changes.

VM Scale sets | GA

General availability (GA) of Azure Virtual Machine Scales Sets

We’re announcing that the Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets feature is now generally available in all regions where VMs are available. VM Scale sets make it easy to build highly scalable applications by allowing you to easily deploy and manage identical VMs as a set. Built on the Azure Resource Manager deployment model, VM Scale sets are fully integrated with Azure load balancing and autoscale, and support Windows, Linux, custom images, and extensions. There is no additional cost to use VM Scale Sets (you only incur the charges for resources being used within a VM Scale set). With For more information about VM Scale Sets, see Virtual Machine Scale Sets.