Microsoft Ignite 2020 Azure Announcement Highlights

This week saw the 2020 version of Microsoft’s Ignite conference. This year this was an online event, reduced to 48 hours rather than the usual 5 days, but we still saw plenty of announcements. You can find the full list of announcements in the Ignite Book of News, but today I’m going to take a look at what I thought were the highlight announcements in the Azure space (at least from my perspective) and dive a little deeper into them. This focus is around data, compute, PaaS and serverless, areas like Machine Learning and AI, and IoT aren’t featured.


Serverless Cosmos DB

We’ve had a serverless version of Azure SQL for a while now, but now we have one for Cosmos DB. Previously Cosmos required you to pay for an amount of “provisioned throughput” for your database at all times. It did have some scalability, but there was always a base cost. Now with the serverless version you only pay for the request units that your database actually uses. This will be a great cost saver for small, irregularly used databases as well as spikey workloads.

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Flexible Server for MySQL and PostgreSQL

This new offering allows for a deployment of MySQL or PostgreSQL where the customer has much more flexibility to control things like maintenance windows, high availability a cost. It will enable you to configure things like:

  • Whether you use a single zone or zone redundant servers
  • Configure custom maintenance windows for your own timescales
  • Start and Stop the server as well as using burstable instances to save cost

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Access-based Lifecycle Management for Azure Blob Storage

This new preview feature adds a last access time property to your blobs, which you can then use as part of a blob lifecycle policy to move data between tiers based on when it was last access. This will allow you to archive unused data, or even delete it, automatically.

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Azure Files NFS v4.1 Support

Azure Files now supports using NFS alongside SMB in preview. This will be a significant benefit for anyone looking to use Linux workloads with Azure Files. In particular, this could be useful for storing container persistent volume storage, as alongside this release also comes a preview of the CSI driver for Azure Files NFS.

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Performance Tiers for Disks Preview

It is now possible to set performance tiers for premium SSD disk storage. Baseline performance is assessed based on the disk chosen, but you can then configure these to use a higher performance tier when under heavy load. Once the load is gone, the disks will return to their previous tier.

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Azure Automanage

Automanage is a new service that automates the implementation of VM management for Windows Servers. This service is used to have your virtual machines automatically configure inline with Azure best practice and Microsoft baseline configuration, monitor it for drift and correct it.

Automange is based on profiles which will do things like onboarding VM’s into backup in production, setup Azure Monitor and Security Centre, install the Antimalware extension and so on.

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Scheduled Maintenance

For Isolated VM’s, Dedicated Hosts and Scale Sets, you can now configure a maintenance window for when updates are applied to your machines so that this is under your control. This includes updating the underlying image for VM Scale Sets.

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Zone to Zone Disaster Recovery

Azure Site Recovery now supports replication and failover of VM’s between availability zones in the same region. Previously failover was only to another region, but now you can failover to another location in the same region if it is available.

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Azure RBAC for Kubernetes Preview

Using this feature, you can now grant permissions on Kubernetes cluster resources, using Azure RBAC permissions. You can use either the 4 built-in roles or create custom roles, that grant access to Kubernetes resources, like deployments, pods etc. inside the cluster. This opens up the ability to use things like PIM for managing AKS.

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Azure Policy for AKS GA

The ability to use Azure Policy to manage your AKS cluster, the replacement for Pod Security Policies, is now GA. Azure policy for AKS allows you to define restrictions on your cluster, such as not allowing containers to run as root, what container registry images can come from and so on. Currently, only built-in policies are supported.

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AKS Cluster Stop/Start Preview

Finally, it is possible to turn off an AKS cluster for a while to save costs. This will be very beneficial for development and test environments where clusters are only used for a short period of the day.

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App Service

App Service Pv3 SKU

The new v3 SKU for app service premium tier introduces larger amounts of CPU and Memory and higher memory to core ratio. The v3 SKU also reduces the cost per vCore compared to the v2. In addition, this also introduces reserved instance for App Service.

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App Service Environment (ASE) v3 in Development

A new version of the isolated app service instance, ASE, will launch on November the 1st. This simplifies the deployment process, and most importantly, it removes the stamp fee from the cost, reducing costs by up to 75%.

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Windows Containers on App Service GA

This has been in preview for a while, but running Windows Containers on app service is now GA. The GA release brings a few much-anticipated features:

  • vNet Integration
  • Private Link
  • Managed Identity

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Integration Services

Azure Communication Service Public Preview

Azure Communication Service is a managed offering for building communication features in your applications across devices. Using this service, you can add voice, video and SMS capabilities to your application in a straightforward way.

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Logic App Improvements

We saw a few updates to logic apps this week:

A containerised run time for logic apps, meaning you can run these anywhere you can run containers, on your desktop, Kubernetes, Azure Functions. This also means you can take advantage of the features these platforms offer, with your logic app, such as Private Endpoints, vNet Access and deployment slots.

There is an updated visual studio extension which allows for local development of logic apps, Github Action integration and improvements to the designer.

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API Management Policy Real-Time Debugging

This might not seem like a huge announcement, but if you have ever tried debugging APIM policies, you will know that this can be painful. This update allows for debugging these policies as they are applied to see why they are not working as you expect.

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Azure Resource Mover Preview

This new service allows you to move Azure resources between regions, which up to now has been a somewhat tricky thing to achieve. Resource mover helps identify dependencies between resources, test a move before you do, and then manage the movement as it happens.

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New West US Region

Plans have been revealed to create a third region in West US in Arizona.

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