Cloud Platform Release Announcements for March 5, 2015

This is a blog post of a new ongoing series of consolidated updates from the Cloud Platform team.

In today’s mobile first, cloud first world, Microsoft provides the technologies and tools to enable enterprises to embrace a cloud culture. Our differentiated innovations, comprehensive mobile solutions and developer tools help all of our customers realize the true potential of the cloud first era.

You expect cloud-speed innovation from us, and we’re delivering across the breadth of our Cloud Platform product portfolio. Below is a consolidated list of our latest releases to help you stay current, with links to additional details if you’d like more information.  In this update:

  • Azure Search Generally Available
  • Azure DocumentDB to Become Generally Available
  • Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) Now Available in Open Licensing
  • Azure Media Services Now Fully Integrated with Azure CDN
  • Media Encoder Premium for Azure Media Services in Public Preview
  • Azure Active Directory Dynamic Membership For Groups
  • Automatic Password Change for Social Media Shared Accounts
  • March Update to Microsoft Intune
  • Latest Version For Azure SQL Database Now Generally Available in Asia and Improved Data Recover Objectives For V12 in All Regions
  • Compute-Intensive A10 and A11 Virtual Machine Instances Now Generally Available
  • Remote Desktop app for Windows Phone Now Supports Gateway and Remote Resources

Azure Search Generally Available

Generally available on March 5, Azure Search is a search-as-a-service solution that helps developers to build sophisticated search experiences into web and mobile applications. This release offers enhanced multilanguage support for more than 50 languages—with the same technology used by Microsoft Office and Bing, built on our many years of experience with natural language processing. You can also now more easily load data from Azure DocumentDB, Azure SQL Database, and SQL Server on Azure VMs to Azure Search using new indexers. Plus, a .NET software development kit (SDK) is now available to make working with Azure Search a more familiar experience. For more information on these new features, please visit the Azure Search documentation webpage.

Azure Search offers free and paid service tiers. For more information, please visit the Azure Search webpage.

Azure DocumentDB to Become Generally Available

Generally available on April 8, 2015, Azure DocumentDB is a fully managed, highly scalable NoSQL document database service. It offers rich query and transactional processing over a schema-free JavaScript Object Notification (JSON) data model, which helps enable rapid development and high performance for your applications. Offered in units that scale to meet the performance and storage needs of your application, DocumentDB allows you to quickly build, grow, and scale cloud applications.

At general availability, DocumentDB will be available in three standard performance levels: S1, S2, and S3. Collections of data within a DocumentDB database can be assigned to different performance levels allowing you to purchase only the performance you need. For more information about performance levels, please visit the performance levels documentation webpage.

Several enhancements have been made in preparation for general availability, including Hadoop integration, hourly billing, support for larger documents, SQL parameterization, additional regions, and larger account sizes.

For more information, please visit the DocumentDB webpage.

Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) Now Available in Open Licensing

Enterprise Mobility Suite is now available in the Open program.  Previously, EMS was available only with an Enterprise Agreement (EA). A combination of Microsoft Intune, Azure Active Directory Premium and Azure Rights Management Services (RMS), EMS will be priced per seat and available in Open Commercial, Government and Education (as well as OV and OVS). EMS is being offered in the Open channel to enable distributors and resellers to sell EMS to small and medium-sized (SMB) organizations. This lowers the barrier to entry for our partners, greatly expanding their potential target market and giving partners an opportunity to add more value as they engage with our customers. In addition, Microsoft Action Pack subscribers, along with Silver and Gold competency partners, will now get access to EMS and Azure AD Basic as part of their Internal Use Rights (IURs) benefits. (Note: a logon is required to access the IURs page - Learn how to activate your Enterprise Mobility Suite Internal Use Rights licenses.) This will help partners run their internal business, demo EMS to their customers, and perform internal development and testing. Find more details about the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite and how it can help your business here.

Azure Media Services Now Fully Integrated With Azure CDN

Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration with Azure Media Services provides point-and-click provisioning of edge services, speeding your time to market and giving your content global reach. When using Azure Media Services in coordination with Azure CDN, origin egress prices don’t apply. Azure CDN usage will be charged at standard Azure CDN pricing.

For more information, please visit the Media Services webpage. For more information about Azure CDN pricing, please contact your channel partner.

Media Encoder Premium for Azure Media Services in Public Preview

Media Encoder Premium for Azure Media Services offers new and advanced encoding capabilities, including support for MXF and DVCPRO formats, as well as 4K AVC, multi-language audio, closed captioning, deinterlacing, and color conversion.

For more information on Media Encoder Premium for Azure Media Services, please visit the Media Services webpage or the Encoding and Packaging MSDN section. To get more information about the workflow design tool as part of Media Encoder Premium, please contact

Azure Active Directory Dynamic Membership for Groups

Dynamic configuration of security groups’ membership is available in public preview. Administrators are able to set rules to any group created on Azure Active Directory, based on user attributes, such us “department”, “country” and others. Rules will be evaluated to automatically add or remove members from a security group. These groups can be used to provide access to applications or cloud resources such as SharePoint sites and documents or assign licenses to users. More details can be found here.

Automatic Password Change For Social Media Shared Accounts

Azure Active Directory allows the assignment of shared application accounts to groups. This is particularly useful for managing access to company owned social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. The actual password of these accounts is known only by the administrator while other members of the group have access by using their work credentials. One very important security enhancement of this process, in public preview, is the ability to automatically rollover these passwords. This capability makes shared accounts more secure by automatically creating new strong complex passwords at an interval you define and minimizes the risk of exploitation of company owned social media accounts.

Finally we would like to announce that Azure Active Directory Premium and Basic editions are also available via the Open Volume License Program.

March Update to Microsoft Intune

On March 4th, we began to release a service update for Microsoft Intune that includes new features such as the ability to streamline the enrollment of iOS devices purchased directly from Apple or an authorized reseller with the Device Enrollment Program (DEP), the ability to restrict access to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business based upon device enrollment and compliance policies, management of the OneDrive apps for iOS and Android devices, and more. You can view the full list of new features by visiting the Microsoft Intune blog.

Latest version for Azure SQL Database Now General Available in Asia and Improved Data Recover Objectives For V12 in All Regions

Last week we announced the general availability of the latest service version for Azure SQL Database (V12) in Asia. This service update introduces near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility, greater support for larger databases, a new S3 performance level, and 25 percent more Premium performance for the same cost.

Also, with the latest service version (V12), we’re significantly improving our recovery point objective (RPO) and estimated recovery time (ERT) by as much as 360x. (RPO is the maximum amount of most recent data changes [time interval] the application could lose before it is fully functional after a failure. ERT is the estimated duration before the database is fully functional after a restore/failover request.)

With general availability of this service version across Europe, the United States, and Asia and stronger data recovery objectives, now is the right time to consider Azure SQL Database for your critical cloud applications or migrate a portfolio of cloud-ready applications from on-premises. Learn more about SQL Database.  

Compute-Intensive A10 and A11 Virtual Machine Instance Now Generally Available

Compute-intensive A10 and A11 Azure Virtual Machine instances are now generally available. Similar to the A8 and A9 instances, these size feature faster processors, more virtual cores for higher compute power, and larger amounts of memory. A10 instances have 8 virtual cores and 56 GB of RAM while A11 instances have 16 virtual cores and 112 GB of RAM. With these instances, customers can run compute-intensive applications that do video encoding, risk modeling, engineering analyses, and more. These new instances offer more options for customers who do not require the InfiniBand networking capability that comes with A8 and A9 instances. For more information, visit the Virtual Machines webpage.

Remote Desktop app for Windows Phone Now Supports Gateway and Remote Resources

The Remote Desktop client app for Windows Phone 8.1 is coming out of preview. Version 8.1.8 will support access to the remote systems available from the internet through a Remote Desktop Gateway and access to the apps and desktops made available to users by IT through a Remote Desktop Services deployment. This complements the existing support for Azure RemoteApp a new Azure service available from Microsoft.