Microsoft Debuts Azure Availability Zones to Reduce Outage Risk

Azure Availability Zones add fault tolerance and high availability for business-critical cloud applications that can't fail.

Microsoft wants to take the worry out of deploying critical applications on its Azure cloud computing platform with Azure Availability Zones, a new high availability service, the company announced on Sept. 21.

"Availability Zones increase Azure's resiliency capabilities and broaden options for customers to choose the business continuity solution that is right for their organization," explained Tom Keane, head of Global Infrastructure at Microsoft Azure, in a blog post announcing the new service. "We've also designed Availability Zones to give customers great confidence in delivering services with an industry-leading, financially-backed 99.99 percent virtual machines uptime SLA [service-level agreement] when generally available."

However, it may take a while before the company's global customer base can use Azure Availability Zones.

For now, a beta of the service is available in two Azure regions, the East U.S. 2 and West Europe regions in Virginia and the Netherlands, respectively. By the end of the year, Microsoft plans to light up more areas of the U.S. plus Asia and Paris, France, Keane said.

Microsoft has experienced firsthand how outages can affect customers who increasingly rely on cloud services to run their businesses. And in February, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage highlighted the need for redundancy in critical cloud applications.

To help ensure that cloud applications don't succumb to unexpected data center outages, Azure Availability Zones feature "providing redundant power, cooling, and networking," said Keane.

In another cloud-related announcement, the company said that its Azure IoT (Internet of Things) Hub service is now available in eight more Azure regions across four countries (East U.S. 2 and Central U.S., Azure U.K. South, U.K. West, Canada Central, Canada East, India Central and India South), greatly expanding its global reach. Azure IoT Hub is the Microsoft's IoT connectivity, provisioning and management service.

For organization with big cloud storage requirements, Microsoft announced new Blob storage account options that scale to new heights.

Suitable for big data, IoT telemetry, media content and other types of data that soak up tons of storage capacity, Microsoft is now offering Blob storage accounts—the company's take on cloud object storage—with up to 5PB (petabytes) of maximum capacity, a 10x increase. Both incoming and outgoing data can now move at up to 50Gbps (gigabits per second) and users can expect 50,000 TPS/IOPS (transactions per second/input output operations per second) performance, a 2.5x jump.

The upgraded limits are available to practically all customers with little to no change in how they manage and consume Microsoft's cloud storage services, according to Dinesh Murthy, principal program manager of Azure Storage, in a on Sept. 20 announcement. "These new limits apply to both new and existing Blob storage accounts. You can continue to leverage all of your favorite features in these storage accounts at-scale, without any changes required," he said.

Microsoft's bigger Blob storage accounts are available now to all Azure commercial cloud customers. Microsoft plans to upgrade its Government and National Clouds (China and Germany) soon, Murthy added.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...