Cloud, Azure

Having finally recovered from the week-long extravaganza that is Microsoft Ignite, I’ve had the chance to reflect on some of the highlights of the week. A huge number of new Azure infrastructure announcements were made, so I wanted to share my top five takeaways focusing on the most notable cloud and DevOps technologies released.

1. Azure Front Door (Public Preview)

Azure Front Door Service is a service that offers one secure global entry point for web applications, APIs, content and cloud services. Interestingly, this new service was actually an internal technology Microsoft has been using over the past few years and have since decided it would make a nice addition to their stack. Features include:

  • SSL offload and application acceleration at the edge
  • Global HTTP load balancing with instant failover
  • Application Firewall and DDoS Protection
  • Central Control Plane for traffic orchestration

If these features sound familiar, they should be if you’ve ever used Traffic Manager, Application Gateway and DDoS Protection for VNETs. The value in this product is that it is a big improvement in ease of use, with the added benefit of application acceleration at the edge. If you run applications that need global scale on Azure, I suggest you take a look!

This car has a mini Azure Stack Data-Centre in the back!

2. Azure Container Instances VNET Integration (Public Preview)

Azure Container Instances are the fastest and simplest way to run a container in Azure and are great for workloads that are intermittent or infrequent (burst). However, many organisations are prevented from being able to use them as they’re not accessible from their Azure Private VNETs. Good news – we’re now starting to see that feature being rolled out! Currently it is only supported in two regions (West Europe and West United States) but keep an eye on it as it will be a popular feature once rolled out more widely.

3. Password-less Logins for your Enterprise!

Remembering passwords is a pain. Historically, IT admins would implement strict password policies – they must meet complexity requirements, needs to be updated every 90 days, you know the drill. However, research has shown that these policies actually increase risk as users tend to resort to behaviours such as writing down their complex, ever-changing passwords on a post-it note somewhere near their computer for easy access! During Ignite, Microsoft announced that they are beginning to support password-free logins to Azure Active Directory via the Microsoft Authenticator App. Having used this feature for many months with my Microsoft Account and a similar feature with Google I can say this is a welcome change. Calling it password-less may be a little misleading…you’ll still have a password but will just need to use it less often. If you’re interested, here’s a video from Microsoft to explain in more detail.

3. VSTS Becomes Azure DevOps

Microsoft introduced Azure DevOps in September, bringing together a number of services to span the whole development lifecycle to help produce software faster and with higher quality, describing them as the most complete offering in the public cloud. The rebrand from VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services), the cloud version of Team Foundation Server, and the release of new features meant that Ignite week was full of breakout sessions to bring Developers and IT pros up to speed on the latest changes.

Since it’s launch, I’ve been using Azure DevOps and found it incredibly easy to get productive with very little instruction on this service. Many features are free so there is no reason not to get started building your first pipelines, no matter what language your application was written in. Over the coming weeks I plan to release a more in depth look at these features on contino.io so keep a look out for that.

5. Windows Virtual Desktop

The chances are you’re either someone who has never heard of VDI or someone who uses it all the time. During my career I’ve worked for several companies who have invested heavily in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, however previously in the cloud your options were pretty limited. On AWS, Amazon offered Workspaces but the limitation with that is that the Operating System is actually a Windows Server with a skin to look like Windows 10 which sometimes had compatibility issues. On Azure, Citrix has an offering but there was a 25-seat minimum. Now Microsoft decided to step into this market with its own flavour for VDI, Windows Virtual Desktop. 

Overall, it was an exciting week for Microsoft Azure, with some truly awesome products coming our way. See you next year, Ignite!

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