Microsoft's Cortana booted off yet another service while Google and AWS get a bit catty over licensing shakeup

Also: Redmond buddies up with Reliance Jio Infocomm (no, not that Infocom)

Cortana photo via Shutterstock
Nah, you're alright

Roundup Welcome to your midweek Microsoft roundup – stories you might have missed amid another seven days of Nadella action.

Cortana gets another kicking

It was all supposed to be so different for Microsoft's assistant. A healthy push from the company's mobile platform coupled with a variety of smart speakers and clever devices should have seen the wannabe AI catapulted to consumer stardom.

It did not turn out that way, and the last few days has seen the unloved clever-clogs told it will be booted from its own thermostat. An advisory issued to users of Johnson Control's GLAS thermostat (first noted in Slashgear) has warned that Cortana will no longer work, and users should turn to devices from Amazon or Google to control things.

The futuristic translucent screen of the thermostat was a neat showcase for the tech but, it seems, not for much longer. It joins the ranks of Microsoft's Xbox and Windows 10 as systems that have had the technology removed (although a less useful version can still at least be downloaded as an app for Windows 10).

Hey, Amazon and Google? How about that new Microsoft pricing! Worried much?

Google's president of Cloud Sales, Robert Enslin, joined Amazon last week in sniping at Microsoft's licensing changes.

While the irony of the former SAP cloud prez complaining about complicated pricing and vendor lock-in was not lost on some wags, the public airing of grievances by the cloud giants indicates that the move has left some a little jittery.

Sandy Carter, a veep at Amazon Web Services, bleated in a blog that running Windows workloads on AWS had been possible since before Azure existed. Carter also pointed to figures to showing a 400 per cent growth of AWS enterprise customers using Amazon EC2 for Windows Server. "In fact," she sniffed, "we are seeing a trend of customers moving from Azure to AWS."

So ner.

Expect more mud to be flung before the cloud giants get back to what they are best at: squeezing as much cash as possible from their customers.

Blobs on the edge?

Ever wished you could enjoy Blob storage on an IoT Edge device that works exactly like it does in the Azure? No?

Just us then.

Plopping into General Availability last week was Microsoft's take on local Blob storage, uploadable to Azure automatically before the resources of the IoT Edge device are depleted.

It's a handy thing, particularly when collecting input from a sensor and doing some local pre-processing ahead of shunting data up to the cloud. Microsoft has long been a proponent of more intelligent IoT devices where it makes sense to use the lower latency of local storage rather than shovel terabytes of raw data to Azure.

IoT devices also tend to have limited connectivity, or lower bandwidth, so keeping things local can make a lot of sense in some instances. The service will also support "disconnected scenarios".

It's a bumper Azure AMD August

As if to emphasise that Azure is the future (as far as Microsoft is concerned), the company unleashed a slew of other announcements, some of which are likely to raise an eyebrow at the offices of former best buddy Intel: AMD-based Azure VMs for general purpose and memory intensive workloads have turned up in the East US Azure region.

The gang had already deployed AMD EPYC virtual machines in 2017, and last week rolled out the HB-series, including the EPYC 7002 processor. The Dav3 and Eav3-series Azure VMs will use the EPYC 7452 CPU for more general workloads.

Ominously for those worried that Microsoft might be parking its tanks on their pristine virtualized desktop lawns, the gang is also pairing the Radeon MI25 GPU with the EPYC 7002 for Windows-based remote desktops. That GPU can be scaled from an eighth of a single GPU up to the whole thing.

On a more prosaic but practical note, Azure Backup finally became available in all regions, including newly minted South Africa North and West. Those African regions also had Media Services switched on last week.

Microsoft gets jiggy with Jio

Finally, Microsoft and India's Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (which prefers to be called Jio, but make us pine for Zork and Leather Goddesses of Phobos) announced a 10-year plan aimed at that old chestnut of "digital transformation".

The target this time is the Indian economy, with Microsoft using Jio as a conduit to encourage businesses to use the company's wares.

The deal will have Jio shunt its workforce over to Azure as well as deploying the cloudy platform within its infrastructure. Microsoft will also look to the telecommunications provider to set up data centres into which Azure can be shovelled, with the first two examples, in Gujarat and Maharashtra, aiming to be up and running in 2020.

Jio will then sell Azure and products based on the platform to a variety of customers, from small to large, in India.

The telecoms outfit boasts 331.3 million subscribers, as of 30 June 2019 (PDF), modestly claiming it enjoyed "The World's Largest Data Network" (based on mobile data consumption). Its customers burn through an average of 11.4GB of data per month. ®

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