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November News Roundup: What's New with Azure?

Hello Cloud Gurus! Wondering what’s changed with Azure this month? We’ve written an article with everything you need to know to keep in the loop.

Jun 08, 2023 • 8 Minute Read

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Hello Cloud Gurus! Wondering what’s changed with Azure over the last month, but haven’t had the time to check the headlines? We’ve written an article with everything you need to know to keep in the loop.

Kubecon 2022 & AKS

Kubecon 2022 was held just before the start of November, and with that came a bunch of Azure Kubernetes Services updates.

From a performance perspective, the biggest announcement was a new networking framework called Azure CNI powered by Cilium, which provides notable benefits like more efficient data pathing to provide faster direct access to your pods, as well as built in support for Kubernetes Network Policies without the need for a separately installed solution. 

So what does this mean in plain English? To put it in simply, it makes your high scale Kubernetes workloads faster and more secure, which is always a good thing.  

We also got a couple of new security enhancements for AKS.

The first is called Image Cleaner, now available in preview. As you maintain ongoing AKS workloads, nodes may collect older images over time, which may have security vulnerabilities. Image Cleaner effectively goes through your nodes and automatically cleans out those older, stale images, removing it as a possible security risk. 

It acts as a managed add-on in AKS, from which it will generate a list of stale images. It will not include images attached to running pods and customers can also manually exclude certain images. From there, Image Cleaner will run a purge job on any remaining images on the ‘stale’ list, resulting in a fresher, cleaner, and more secure Kubernetes node. 

The second security announcement is the availability of Mariner OS images for AKS clusters

Mariner OS is a lightweight linux distribution created by Microsoft designed for secure containers. It's already in use in several Microsoft products like Xbox, Minecraft, and over 100 Azure services. And it’s also available for the general public to use in their own containerized workloads. So if you've always wanted to build your clusters on the same OS structure as Minecraft...well now you can! 

Savings Plan for Compute

If you have long-running compute jobs on Azure, you may already be familiar with Azure reservations which allows you to purchase a committed amount of compute capacity for 1 or 3 years at a greatly reduced price. However, Azure reservations has a number of restrictions such as being tied to a specific region for reservations, limited to specific VM families or SKUs, or tied to a specific compute service like VMs or App Service. Overall, it’s a bit limited on flexibility if you need to make significant changes. 

With this in mind, the new feature called Savings Plan for Compute is similar to Azure Reservations, however it offers much more flexibility in how you use that reserved compute. With Savings Plan for Compute, you also reserve a set amount of compute capacity. However, that reserved capacity can be used on almost any compute type, for example VMs or AKS containers, and it can be used in any region. This gives you much more flexibility on where and how to run your compute workloads and still save a lot of cash. 

Introducing Vision Studio

It’s becoming increasingly common to work with very large collections of images and videos. New developments in AI open up exciting possibilities in this area, and Azure has created a great new tool to help you get started. Vision Studio gives you access to advanced algorithms for processing media and returning information, all in a clean UI.

All you need to do is give this Computer Vision tool to your media assets and you can use the simple UI tools to see how your data responds to new AI-enabled analysis tools. These include Spatial Analysis, Face Recognition, Image Analysis and more.

Azure Communication Services short code functionality for SMS

Connecting to your customers using SMS (Short Message Service) is becoming very popular. One aspect of SMS technology that really helps in digital marketing efforts is the “short code”: 5- or 6-digit numbers that you can use to track individual SMS campaigns. With the general availability of short code functionality from Azure Communication Services, you can add this feature to your digital communication efforts - or migrate your short code infrastructure from another provider.

You can also easily integrate your SMS short code workloads into other Azure services - for instance, you can add SMS-based workflows into your apps using a Logic Apps connector from Azure, or trigger your short code SMS messages using an integrated Azure Event Grid.

Static Web Apps updates

There were not one, or two, but six updates for Static Web Apps this month. So let's take a quick look at them all!

First up, we have new platform support with Node 18 being supported in preview and .NET 7 becoming generally available. Now, if you have a Blazor WebAssembly app, it will automatically build and deploy.   

Next up, we know a ton of you use GitHub, but many organizations also use other repositories like Gitlab and BitBucket. Well, you'll be thrilled to know that support for both of these is now generally available. You can now use those as your CI/CD providers for Static Web Apps.

Next, let's discuss preview environments. These enable you to spin up a completely new environment when you have a pull request on your repository that has a temporary URL generated for it. You can now use these preview environments with Azure DevOps because that feature is generally available. In addition, you can now create named environments that are tied to specific branches which will result in the same URL for the branch preview environment. This feature is now also generally available. 

And last up, you can now specify a setting for your app that enables you to skip the building of the API if you don't need this within your app. This one is now GA as well. 

Cosmos DB updates

Next up, we have two announcements for Cosmos DB. First up, you now can retry your writes when using MongoDB for Cosmos DB. You've always been able to handle this with your own retry logic, but now you can take advantage of this at the driver level without any custom code required on your part. The great news is that this is generally available, but you'll need to enable this capability before it can be leveraged. 

Also, you can now copy a Cosmos DB container within your account without having to leverage any extra tools to make it happen. This can be critical if you are trying to test out some migrations, debug some data-specific issues, or even if you want to run analytics workloads without consuming any production capacity. There are some caveats for this, so review the documentation before you take advantage of this public preview. 

Be a space developer with Azure Orbital Space SDK

This month Microsoft released the preview of their Azure Orbital Space SDK, which is not only a great name, but also a way for developers to take the cloud to space. And this isn’t some service that potentially might talk to things in space, the Azure Orbital Space SDK is designed to be spacecraft-agnostic.

What does this really mean for us humans though? With the new SDK cloud developers can make more sophisticated software that can live on the spacecrafts and prioritise what gets transmitted back to Earth, improving the quality of the data, and at the same time saving very costly bandwidth. Think of it like edge computing on the edge of edge computing. The ultimate edge?

For example, you could prioritize images that are useful, or even send insights rather than the raw data down to the ground. Satellites might use it to optimize communication to remote parts of the earth, making connectivity even more achievable anywhere. Or we can model and combat climate change even better with much better data. There are a ton of possibilities. Microsoft is bringing a standard to an industry that traditionally hasn’t had any for application development on the actual spacecraft. 

If you want to try out the SDK, for now you have to work for one of the Azure Space Partner Community members, but that is just for the preview. Expect the launch of the public SDK soon!

Azure SQL trigger for Azure Functions

Azure Functions is one of the most important and useful services on Azure for developers, however there is still room for improvement and added features. And one of those features was released in public preview this week. The Azure SQL trigger for Azure Functions means you can now trigger an Azure function when a row in a SQL database is created, updated, or deleted. This is extremely useful for many scenarios, for example when a new customer record is inserted, you can trigger a function that sends a welcome email, inserts another record, fetches their profile image from social media and much more.  

Azure SQL bindings for Azure Functions have also enabled input and output binding support to Java, PowerShell, Python, JavaScript, and C# functions, so everyone can join in on the fun. One scenario I can see with this is that data manipulation in the database row can be “outsourced” to an Azure Function, which creates a lot more flexibility. Give it a go.

That’s all the big November headlines for Azure wrapped up! 

Want to keep on top of Azure News each week?

Azure This Week is your weekly news roundup for all things Azure. Join our expert hosts as they cover everything you need to know about the past week’s developments, keeping it short, fun and informative. 

Whether you’re just beginning your cloud journey, or you know your stuff, there’s something for everyone!

Free cert prep with Cloud Happy

Until the end of the year, you can sign up for free certification prep with Pluralsight Skills or A Cloud Guru, as part of the Cloud Happy campaign. You can access courses on AWS, Azure, GCP, Kubernetes and Terraform for free – and when we say free, we mean genuinely free.

There’s so many options, we’ve written an article on how to choose the right course for you. The only mistake you can make is to make no choice at all!