Azure Updates: New Zealand region; Sphere; Cosmos DB; Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification

May 12 2020

Covid-19 continues to dominate headlines, while Microsoft further emphasizes tooling to assist in remote work and low-latency scenarios, as well as indicating new investment in the Southern Hemisphere.  

Australia and New Zealand have been among the first countries to emerge from national lockdowns due to Covid-19 and it seems Microsoft has taken note of the reopening. Microsoft is set to create its sixtieth Azure region to serve New Zealand, once it is granted permission by the country's Overseas Investment Office. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told New Zealand's 1News, "It serves as a signal to the world New Zealand is open for business, for quality investment. This is subject to normal regulatory approvals, however this is a hugely welcome development." 

Among general updates, Sphere update 20.04 is GA, and users can select multiple resources across different scopes in Monitor Logs. In fact, Monitor Logs is also adding new features to its table side pane experience, like column descriptions and dedicated documentation for schemas. Private Link is available for Azure Database for MariaDB and PostgreSQL across both the US Gov Arizona and US Gov Virginia regions.

Blob Index for Blog storage is in-preview and program manager Xin Huang delved into what is covered by the offering. The new capabilities are intended to overcome previous limitations, wherein customers needed to use the ListBlobsAPI to pull and parse 5000 lexicographical records at a time. Blob Index instead supports all blob types like Append Blob, Block Blob and Page Blob, together with services like Lifecycle management. To populate a blob index, users define key-value tag attributes, which are stored along with underlying blob data.

Monitor added the new Application Change Analysis feature, supporting changes across multiple Azure resources. In situations where a web app abruptly stops working, users can more easily narrow down which resource to investigate, clicking into it to view additional context and JSON.

Cosmos DB team member Parul Matah explained how Microsoft assisted in the rollout of the Minecraft Earth computer game in December 2019, with new augmented reality experiences. Players on iOS and Android-based AR capable devices take actions, which write as REST POST to the game's core service. To prevent lag, these must be acknowledged and accepted immediately. To achieve low-latency from anywhere, the game engineers setup an event sourcing pattern based on Cosmos DB, with an append-only data store for recording actions on the data, mapping to each action taken by the player. Following immediate acknowledgement, queues subscribed to the append-only event store run post-processing, asynchronously applying to domain states in Blob storage. Additionally, the developers used multi-master capabilities to support multi-region writes. Cosmos DB achieved low latency, in a low maintenance managed service model that scaled based on demand.

Senior program manager Ali Zaman detailed how Azure VPN can support remote work. During the Covid-19 pandemic, with its rapid shifts to remote work, many organizations have struggled to give workers access to internal information from home—particularly healthcare and government organizations. Microsoft itself went from around 50,000 employees doing remote access to 128,000. The Azure Point-to-Site VPN Gateway solution is cloud-based and able to accommodate rapid shifts in demand. Users are able to connect up existing VPNs, use Azure AD authentication and undertake split tunneling for traffic.

In the latest installment of his multi-part series on Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification for Azure Government, TJ Banasik looked into asset and configuration management. Users can enable settings in the Azure Information Protection pane and send audit data to Information Protection analytics, export system inventories to Azure CLI, enforce least privilege and establish system baselines. Banasik went over how to enforce port and protocol restrictions, limit software execution or run application whitelisting. The team also announced the availability of HDInsight Enterprise Security Packages with AD authentication, RBAC and multi-user support for Azure Government.

In the partner channel, Gluware is making its Intelligent Network Automation platform available in Azure Marketplace. Kyvos has launched its Insights BI acceleration platform in Azure Marketplace as well, while Data Intensity is premiering Safe-Switch to migrate Oracle Application and Database platforms to Azure.

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