The latest version of the Windows Azure SDK has been released and it includes the beta of the Virtual Machine (VM) Role which takes Azure in a new direction.
Previously Azure has been a way to run ASP .NET web sites in the cloud. You could, if you knew how, get at the virtual machine that was running the web app and breakout of the box built around you to. Now the latest edition of the Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio add the ability to run Virtual Machines of your own.
Basically you have to use Windows 2008 R2 to create a custom VHD image which can then be hosted by the Azure servers. This is a lot more like the sort of service offered by Amazon's EC2 system. The estimated price is $0.05 per compute hour.
Version 1.3 has the following new features:
- Virtual Machine (VM) Role (Beta): Allows you to create a custom VHD image using Windows Server 2008 R2 and host it in the cloud.
- Remote Desktop Access: Enables connecting to individual service instances using a Remote Desktop client.
- Full IIS Support in a Web role: Enables hosting Windows Azure web roles in a IIS hosting environment.
- Elevated Privileges: Enables performing tasks with elevated privileges within a service instance.
- Virtual Network (CTP): Enables support for Windows Azure Connect, which provides IP-level connectivity between on-premises and Windows Azure resources.
- Diagnostics: Enhancements to Windows Azure Diagnostics enable collection of diagnostics data in more error conditions.
- Networking Enhancements: Enables roles to restrict inter-role traffic, fixed ports on InputEndpoints.
- Performance Improvement: Significant performance improvement local machine deployment.
To take advantage of these new features you need to be accepted on to the VM Role and Windows Azure Connect CTP programs.
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