Microsoft announced quite a few interesting new Azure services at the TechEd 2014 in Houston. My impression is that Microsoft currently is in cloud-first and mobile-second mode.
Azure Files ^
The Azure File service allows you to create file shares in Microsoft Azure that can be accessed by virtual machines through the SMB 2.1 protocol. The main difference from Azure Disks is that Azure File shares can be accessed by multiple VMs, whereas an Azure Disk can only be mounted on one VM. Azure Files differ from Azure Blobs in that you can use them in the Windows world with the more common SMB protocol instead of the REST API. Thus, Azure Files enable you to create a central data location for distributed Windows applications that were not developed for the cloud.
The Azure File service is currently only available as a preview and can’t be accessed through the Azure management interface. If you want to try this new Azure feature, you need to sign up for Azure Files at the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal and hope that Microsoft will grant you access.
Azure ExpressRoute ^
Azure ExpressRoute is now generally available. This service corresponds to Amazon’s Direct Connect and allows you to connect your on-premises datacenter through private networks provided by various network service providers. The advantage is a faster, more secure connection than through the public Internet.
Azure Site Recovery ^
Azure Site Recovery is an extension of Hyper Recovery Manager that became generally available in January. Hyper Recovery Manager is only able to orchestrate the synchronization and recovery of VMs between on-premises Hyper-V sites. Azure Site Recovery adds the ability to use Azure as backup storage for on-premises Hyper-V VMs.
Azure RemoteApp ^
Azure RemoteApp is currently also only available in preview. You probably know the RemoteApp feature of Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server, which allows you to seamlessly integrate applications that run on RD Session Host server to a user’s local desktop. Azure RemoteApp is the pendant in the Microsoft’s cloud.
Azure Antimalware ^
Azure Antimalware allows you to automatically start antimalware agents from Symantec and Trend Micro whenever you start a VM in Azure. This way, you don’t have to manage your own antivirus solution in the cloud. Azure Antimalware is in technical preview.
All in all, I find these announcements quite impressive. It appears to me that Microsoft is about to outpace Amazon in adding new features and services to the cloud. This is going to get interesting.