Microsoft fluffs Azure cloud with search, data storage, faster compute

Cloud wars rage on as new offerings hit general availability

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Microsoft is rolling out multiple upgrades to its Azure cloud, including new search and data-storage services and cheaper compute-oriented virtual machine instances.

The two new services, Azure Search and DocumentDB, have been available as previews since August but are now making their way into general availability.

Azure Search is what it sounds like: a search-as-a-service feature that lets web devs easily add sophisticated searches of a variety of data to their sites.

The general-availability version of the service, which launched on Thursday, adds a number of previously unavailable features, including updated APIs, support for more languages, a new .Net SDK for use with Visual Studio, and new indexers that can import data from Azure SQL Database, SQL Server running in Azure virtual machine instances, and Azure DocumentDB.

About that last one. DocumentDB is a bit of a departure for Microsoft, in that it's a schema-free NoSQL database service that Redmond says is designed to enable "new scenarios" on Azure – meaning quick-and-dirty storage for mobile and web apps.

DocumentDB doesn't hit general availability until April 8, but when it does, Microsoft will be introducing "performance levels" for the service: the more performance you need, the more it will cost.

In addition to these services, Redmond has also debuted two new virtual machine types for compute-intensive workloads, known as A10 and A11 instances. Capacity-wise, they're the same as the earlier A8 and A9 instance types, except that they lack those instances' second network adapter that links to a remote direct memory access (RDMA) backend network.

Customers with high-performance computing workloads will probably want to stick to A8 and A9 instances, but if you don't need maximum network latency and throughput, you'll be able to cut costs by 33 per cent or more by going with A10 or A11 instances, which also offer larger disk sizes.

The A10 and A11 instances are available now in all regions where A8 and A9 instances are available, including US East, West, North Central, and South Central; North and West Europe; and Japan East. ®

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