A day after Azure drove Microsoft to record revenue through its fiscal first quarter, the company announced some changes to the cloud platform. Among the updates is an expansion of Azure Availability Zones and more support for DevOps.

If you are unfamiliar with Azure Availability Zones, it is a datacenter within an Azure cloud region. The zones give added support for Microsoft’s cloud products such as SQL Database and Azure Virtual Machines.

Microsoft says it has now expanded Azure Availability Zones into the West U.S. 2 and North Europe Azure regions. With this expansion, Availability Zones are available in the following regions:

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  • Central US
  • East US 2 (Preview)
  • France Central
  • North Europe
  • Southeast Asia (Preview)
  • West Europe
  • West US 2

It is worth remembering that organizations must pay to use Availability Zones. Microsoft prices the service based on data transfer rates. By keeping data separate from an Azure region, customers have added security.

This was emphasized last month when Microsoft’s South Central U.S. Azure region experienced an outage. Downtime affected Visual Studio Team Services, Azure Active Directory, and Azure Bot Service. That region still does not have Availability Zones, but if it did customers using the service would have been protected.

AzureOps Changes

Microsoft also announced more support for Azure DevOps. Specifically, the collaboration service is now supported in the company’s ExpressRoute service. The monitoring feature for the cloud platform delivers low-latency and high-bandwidth monitoring for connecting private internet networks to Azure services.

Microsoft says ExpressRoute support in Azure DevOps gives support to “customers who typically operate in the government and financial services sectors” operating outside the normal internet.

Azure Update Management

Finally, Microsoft encouraged customers to use the Azure Update Management service. Available with Azure cloud subscriptions and works through Azure Portal. Features of Update Management include:

  • The ability to target groups with dynamic membership when deploying updates.
  • The ability to create “an Azure-native query” for Azure virtual machines (in preview).
  • A “query preview” capability that will show “the VMs that would be patched if this update deployment were to run right now.”
  • The ability to “onboard multiple machines into Update Management, even across subscriptions.”
  • A “pre/post scripts” capability for Azure automation runbooks, which can be run as part of an update deployment.
  • An “update inclusion” capability for deploying some patches but not others.
  • Flexible system reboot controls.
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