There’s no doubt that the last two years have been the most transformative time for companies around the world. There have been great opportunities for growth in some sectors and huge challenges to overcome in others. Regardless of the industry, all companies are seeing a greater need to be on the Cloud and to use its services to the fullest extent. Microsoft Azure is one of the leading Cloud providers and it’s got some exciting new services that recently became Generally Available (GA), or are in preview and expected to become GA in 2022. Here are six new Azure services you’ll want to look out for this year.
Azure Automanage (preview, free)
In May 2021, Microsoft announced the preview of Azure Automanage for Linux virtual machines (VMs), which follows the popular Azure Automanage for Windows VMs. Microsoft recently announced the preview of Azure Automanage for VMs on Azure Arc, their solution for bringing all your computer resources into Azure Resource Management, allowing for one pane of glass to view your private, hybrid and public cloud resources.
Azure Automanage uses a simple point and click interface to configure best practices like monitoring, updates, backup, security, etc. Thus, reducing the administration overhead to configure best practices of VMs wherever their physical servers reside. Automanage also keeps VMs within a security baseline while allowing for high uptime by providing for hot patches (when used with Windows Server 2022 Azure Edition), which don’t require a server restart.
Azure Automanage allows you to easily implement best practices for your VMs.
Windows Server 2022
The Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) of Windows Server 2022 is now GA, which allows businesses to modernize their applications and mission-critical workloads on the most secure version of Windows available in all environments: on premise, the hybrid cloud and, of course, in Azure VMs. Windows Server 2022 allows you to take advantage of a multi-layer security model with Secured-core server and secured connectivity via TLS 1.3.
TLS 1.3 offers a faster and more secure handshake to encrypt your data.
Microsoft increased the ease of integrating with Azure when you’re on premise or in a hybrid scenario using Server Message Block (SMB) encryption/compression for faster file transfers and integration with Storage Migration Service and Azure File Sync.
This server edition also introduces a reduced core size, a release of a nano server image for containers and scalability improvements. Windows Server 2022 becomes most secure when used on Azure with their new Secure Boot Virtual Trusted Platform Modules (vTPMs) that use TPM 2.0 chips to enforce Secure Boot. You may also want to check out the Datacenter Azure Edition to get Azure Automanage with hotpatches.
Azure Chaos Studio (Preview)
Similar to Chaos Monkey from Netflix, which is an agent of chaos used to test how resilient systems are set up by randomly shutting processes and servers down, or introducing faults into systems, Azure Chaos Studio will test the resilience of your Azure deployments. Azure Chaos Studio is enabling the growing Chaos Engineering practice that simulates real-world outages and makes it easier to identify bugs that only appear when systems are in extreme conditions.
Even though it sounds like a random mess of bit flipping and wire unplugging, Azure Chaos Studio grew from a Microsoft internal tool that has been tailored towards creating faults in the situations that most often cause issues. It allows for experimentation in determining which areas of an environment are weak, giving you the chance to continually validate your application in different scenarios based on hypotheses most likely gleaned from analytics.
Azure Container Apps (Preview)
The usage of containers to package and deploy code is increasing and for those who need to deal with scaling up their container instances, there is now an offering from Azure that doesn’t require the complexity of setting up your own Kubernetes cluster. Azure Container Apps is a service that is now in preview and allows users to host containers without managing the underlying VMs or orchestrators. Container Apps doesn’t care which containers you are using, what run times or which programming languages you’re using. The Distributed Application Runtime (DAPR) is built into the new service to provide APIs with a recommended way to build microservices. DAPR is a Microsoft-incubated open source project that includes solutions for everyday problems when building microservices like setting up and managing service-to-service invocation, state management, pub/sub, resource binding and triggers, actors, observability, and secrets.
Container Apps also comes with the Kubernetes Event-Driven Autoscaler (KEDA) that responds to measurements like HTTP concurrent requests, CPU, memory usage, etc. in order to scale your app up and down automatically. Azure Container Apps allows developers to be freed up from managing containers so that they can solve other critical business issues.
Azure Container Apps makes it easy to scale your containers without the headache of managing orchestration systems.
Azure is releasing a variety of additions to their data warehousing product, Azure Synapse.
Synapse Link for Dataverse (Preview)
If you’ve got Dynamics 365, then you know it can be tricky to get your data out of the dataverse and into a data warehouse without writing a bunch of ETL workflows. Part of that work could be done before using Data Export Service (DES), but this is being deprecated. Now all you need to do is configure the Synapse Link for Dataverse in the Power Admin Center and within a short amount of time you’ll have a data warehouse full of Dynamics data. From there you can do things like run machine learning models against it, use Apache Spark and run SQL scripts on it. At the client I currently work with, we’re developing a proof of concept using Synapse Link for Dataverse as a datasource for our API that uses Dynamics data, but is currently overusing a service account’s allotted limit of transactions against Dynamics.
Azure Synapse with Data Explorer gives you a centralized place to funnel your data for processing and analytics to transform it into useful information for BI and ML solutions.
Azure Synapse Data Explorer (Preview)
Suited for analytics on log and telemetry data using SQL and Apache Spark engines. Without modeling the data and without writing much code if at all, Azure Synapse Data Explorer allows you to ingest large amounts of data from a variety of sources like Event Hub, Azure Data Lake, APIs and on-premise data sources into a central data warehouse. Build highly concurrent, real-time queries for your dashboards without creating or maintaining indexes. Empower self-service analytics with the Kusto Query Language (KQL) that combines the power of SQL and the intuitiveness of Excel, and was built for high-performance analytics on telemetry and time series data. Data Explorer uses text and JSON semi-structured indexing technology to analyze multiple time series even at the gigabyte and petabyte scale.
Azure Cognitive Services – Semantic Search
Semantic Search is a collection of features that apply machine learning techniques to understand the latent structure in the data. It applies semantic relevance and language understanding to improve the quality of any text related query. Semantic Search can use data from a variety of sources such as SQL, Blob Storage, APIs and even pictures. You can get rankings for different query results based on their relatedness among other terms and using the context of the query.
Another feature of the Semantic Search service is to summarize documents with sentences and phrases that are the most important and relevant to the content in the document. This can provide highlights or key tags for documents. The last feature provided is the ability to answer questions or anything that looks like a question. These features shine in an app or product that is trying to provide a Google-like experience (or more precisely, a Bing-like experience since this came from that team) to their custom text results, as well as summarizing large amounts of text for readers and analysts.
Every year Microsoft is making it easier to innovate and stay secure and compliant. The above list of new services is by no means a comprehensive one and actually only represents about a tenth of all this year’s changes! These are sure to help out a variety of people working in Azure, no matter what role you’re in.
About the Author:
Jesse Dahir-Kanehl is a Senior .NET/Azure Consultant in our Madison Development Center. He uses his knowledge of .NET, Azure and software architecture to develop solutions for clients in an Agile way that delivers real business value. He’s a passionate lifelong learner who has interests in gardening, brewing beer/wine, rock climbing and working on cars.
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