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Windows Azure with SQL AlwaysOn, Notification Hubs, AutoScale, Enhancements to VM and Load Balancer

by Anand Narayanaswamy on Aug 26, 2013 |

Windows Azure has been updated to provide support for SQL Server AlwaysOn availability groups technology stack with virtual machines including support for SQL Server availability group listeners. With the help of AlwaysOn support, you will be able to deploy one or more readable database secondaries which not only improves availability of your SQL Servers but also improves efficiency by allowing you to offload BI reporting tasks and backups to the secondary machines.

It is also possible to connect to your SQL Server deployment with a single client connection string using the Availability Group Listener endpoint, which automatically route database connections to the primary replica node. Moreover, the AlwaysOn support can also be used to enable on-premise SQL Server solutions.

The recent Windows Azure update also provides support for notification hubs that enables you to instantly send personalized, cross platform push notifications to Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android mobile devices. It is possible to make use of notification hubs from both Windows Azure Mobile Services or any other custom mobile backend including non-Azure hosted solutions.

According to Microsoft, Windows Azure Notification Hubs provides an extremely scalable push notification infrastructure which is cross-platform, personalized and can be easily integrated into any  back-end server app using .NET, Node.js SDK, or easy-to-use REST APIs. Moreover, it also provides support for device token management and includes efficient tag based multicast and pub/sub routing.

The recently released update of Bing News app for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 make effective use of notification hubs to deliver push notifications to millions of users every day. It works by obtaining the appropriate ChannelURIs from the Windows Notification Service (WNS) and the Microsoft Push Notification Service (MPNS), for the Windows 8 and Windows versions respectively, and then registers them with a Windows Azure Notification Hub. You have to go through the blog post of Scott Guthrie if you would like to know the steps required to create notification hubs.

The previous update to Windows Azure provided support for Auto Scaling that enables you to dynamically scale web sites, cloud services, mobile services and virtual machines to achieve the ideal performance and cost balance. However, with the recent release, you will be able to schedule AutoScale rules from within the dashboard. Moreover, it is also possible to know the events which occured behind AutoScale with the help of logs by navigating inside the Operation Logs tab of the new Management Services node within the Windows Azure Management Portal.

The recent release also include updates to Windows Azure built-in load balancer with support for customizing the network probe logic including the ability to configure custom network probe settings using the management portal.

The alerts and operation logs currently located under the Settings extension has been moved to a new extension namely Management Services. The recent update provides additional operation history data for disk operations, autoscale, alerts in addition to SQL Backup configuration changes.

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