Microsoft has announced new features in Windows Azure, its cloud platform, described by VP Scott Guthrie on his blog.
Aside: I agree with this comment to his post:
Thank you Scott for update. I wish dozens of MS folks and MS representatives would have a clue about Azure roadmap to help businesses plan their release schedules / migration plans. Till that happens, this blog will remain the main source of updates and a hint of roadmap.
The changes are significant. ExpressRoute offers connectivity to Azure without going through the public internet. Currently you have to use an Equinix datacentre, Level 3 cloud connect, or an AT&T MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) VPN. For enterprises that can meet the requirements and who are wary about data passing through the internet, or who want better connectivity, it is an interesting option.
Next up is backup and restore for Azure web sites. Azure web sites are a way of deploying web applications, ranging from free to multi-instance with automatic scaling. You need at least a Standard site for serious use, as I explained here.
Now you can set up scheduled backup for both the web site and a supporting database. The feature is in preview but you can try it now using the Azure web management portal.
I noticed a couple of things. One is that the storage account used must be in the same subscription as the web site. I also spotted this warning:
which states that “frequent backups can increase you database costs by up to 100%”. Still, it is a handy feature.
Another feature that caught my eye is easy linking of third-party apps to Azure Active Directory (which is also used by Office 365). For example, if you are struggling with SharePoint and its poor clients for Windows, iOS and Android, you might consider using Dropbox for business instead. Now you can integrate Dropbox for Business with your Office 365 user directory by selecting it from the Azure management portal.