TechEd 2014: Microsoft Pushes Its Public Cloud

TechEd 2014: Microsoft Pushes Its Public Cloud

Cloud first

It's spring again, and if you can find a U.S. city where the wind blows hot and offers no comfort from the humidity, you must be at TechEd North America. The 2014 rendition of this show is now underway in Houston, Texas, and Microsoft has already blown the doors off opening day, thanks to another fine keynote performance from Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Cloud & Enterprise Division. Here's what we learned today.

Related: TechEd 2014 for Non-Attendees

Note: I'm not in Houston this week, though I was supposed to be. Over the weekend, I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning or something just like it, and I ended up canceling my trip. Fortunately, Windows IT Pro has boots on the ground in Houston, and I was able to watch the TechEd 2014 keynote live from the Channel 9 web site. If you're interested, Microsoft is also live streaming select sessions and other content from the show all week. Check out the Microsoft Events web site for details, or the TechEd 2014 live stream on Channel 9.

So what's the theme this year? I think it's been summed up best by Windows IT Pro's Sean Deuby, who noted via Twitter, "This is the first TechEd where Microsoft has not made any on-premises announcements."


For the past few years, Microsoft has played the role of the Pied Piper of cloud computing, offering an evolving vision for enterprise and IT. It formalized local datacenter infrastructure into something we now call private cloud, and championed a unique hybrid cloud solution that its competitors can't match. But at this week's TechEd, it started pushing public cloud in a major way as well.

Related: Will TechEd 2014 Be a Place for IT Pros?

If public cloud conjures up images of Eric Snowden, the NSA, and public services like Dropbox and Gmail, that shift may sound more shocking than it is. But Microsoft not coincidentally has a little public cloud solution you may have heard of, called Azure. If not check out my article, "Azure Is the Future of Microsoft," from just about a year ago. As of this week it's gotten a lot more powerful and functional.

Azure—which you'll recall was called Windows Azure until just recently—has evolved alongside Microsoft's broader cloud plans. Originally hatched as a Platform as a Service, or PaaS solution, it's adopted much Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) functionality over the past few years, and I think it's best at this point to put away the silly acronyms and just simply matters. Azure is a public cloud infrastructure for business.

To that end, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to mature this service into something that enterprise and IT will both trust and use, first or exclusively in hybrid cloud scenarios that meld existing on-premises infrastructure with new Azure capabilities. And the firm on Monday announced a wide range of new Azure features. These include:

Azure RemoteApp. Available now in preview, this Azure-based desktop as a service solution lets customers broadcast Windows applications to remote devices.

Azure ExpressRoute. Now generally available, ExpressRoute lets businesses create private connections between their on-premises and Azure infrastructure, providing fast, low-latency speeds, security and reliability features.

Azure Files. Basically file sharing as a service, this preview service enables customers to share a single file from multiple virtual machines over SMB and accessible via standard Windows programming APIs.

Azure Site Recovery. Formerly called Hyper-V Recovery Manager and available in preview starting in June, this solution lets customers replicate and recover virtual machines and services to Azure in the event of an outage at their primary datacenter. Yes, it's backup and recovery as a service.

Antimalware for Azure. Available in preview form, this solution lets customers deploy anti-malware agents to cloud services and virtual machines. (Separately, Microsoft is partnering with Symantec and Trend Micro to integrate cloud security solutions with Azure virtual machines.)

And although Azure is of course core to what Microsoft is doing in the public cloud, it's not Microsoft's only public cloud offering. The firm also announced a few other, non-Azure advances during the TechEd keynote too. These include:

Office for iPad remote management from Windows Intune. Later this year, you will be able to manage Office for iPad (and Office for Android when released), as well as other iOS and Android apps, via Windows Intune. I discuss this capability a bit further in iPad for the Windows Guy.

Data Loss Prevention for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business for Office 365 E3 enterprise customers. In June, the Data Loss Prevention capabilities in Exchange will expand to include documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business for Office 365 E3 enterprise customers.

Office 365 data encryption. Starting in July, Microsoft will begin deploying new encryption technology to its Microsoft Office 365 business customers that will encrypt every file stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business with its own key.

Software development. In an interesting development (sorry), Microsoft provided a preview version of Apache Cordova for Visual Studio, enabling developers to build multi-platform hybrid mobile apps using HTML and JavaScript. (You could optionally choose to create native Windows, iOS and Android apps with .NET and Xamarin instead.) Microsoft also released the final version of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, which includes support for Windows universal apps (for PCs, tablets and phones). And it enhanced Visual Studio Online with new capabilities.

There's a lot going on at the show. So stayed tuned to Windows IT Pro for continued coverage from Houston.

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