Cloud Platform Release Announcements for January 10, 2018

This is a blog post for a new, ongoing series of consolidated updates from the Cloud Platform team.

We’re here to help you embrace the cloud. Realize your true potential with our unique innovations, comprehensive mobile solutions, and developer tools across the breadth of our product portfolio. To help you stay current, here are our latest releases.

  • Announcements and price reductions for Azure HDInsight
  • Cognitive Services | General availability (GA)
  • Azure SQL Database | Automatic tuning improvements—GA
  • Azure SQL Database | Elastic DB library for Java—GA
  • Azure security and operations management | Azure Site Recovery deployment planner enhancement
  • Microsoft Azure Information Protection | Create protected WPX on iOS
  • Microsoft Cloud App Security | Preview

Announcements and price reductions for HDInsight

We recently made several exciting announcements about Azure HDInsight, Microsoft’s fully managed, full spectrum, open-source analytics service for enterprises:

  • Effective January 5, 2018, we have cut prices by up to 52 percent on all workloads on HDInsight, and added an additional 80 percent price reduction for Microsoft R Server add-on. As part of this price reduction, we are renaming the “premium tier cluster” to "Enterprise Security Package," which can be added optionally to your Azure HDInsight cluster. The Enterprise Security Package is currently in preview and is priced identically to the premium tier. Learn more about HDInsight pricing.
  • General availability (GA) of Apache Kafka on HDInsight. The general availability of Apache Kafka will enable customers to build enterprise-grade, open-source, real-time analytics solutions such as IoT, fraud detection, clickstream analysis, social analytics, and more backed by Azure HDInsight's SLA of 99.9 percent. Pricing for Apache Kafka on HDInsight is currently in preview. Starting March 1, 2018, GA prices will be effective. Disks for Apache Kafka will be billed at regular GA rates. Read more about Apache Kafka on HDInsight, and learn more about pricing.
  • Integration with Log Analytics—GA. Azure Log Analytics is now integrated with Azure HDInsight to enable enterprise-grade monitoring for mission-critical analytics workloads. Get alerts, monitor, and debug all your Azure HDInsight workloads.
  • Integration with Power BI DirectQuery in preview. Create dynamic reports based on data and metrics you already have on your interactive query clusters. Build visualizations on your entire data set faster with the most recent data.
  • Development tools update for Spark. This release adds support in Visual Studio Code for Spark on Azure HDInsight. Developers can build robust production data pipelines and debug distributed Spark jobs. This also brings in the interactive experience for Python and Spark in Visual Studio Code.

Read more details about these new features in this blog post. We're excited to announce the new capabilities and price reductions for Azure HDInsight. Now customers can take advantage of an even more cost-effective, fully managed, enterprise-grade, and extensible big data and advanced analytics service with global scale and a full spectrum of open source analytics workloads.

Read more details in this blog post and learn more about Azure HDInsight. Try Azure HDInsight now.

Cognitive Services Language Understanding service | GA

We recently announced the general availability of Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding service. This evolution represents an important maturity milestone in terms of performance, support & SLA.

The Language Understanding service provides simple tools that enable you to build your own custom language models, allowing any application or bot to understand your commands and act accordingly.

  • With an updated user interface, we’re expanding up to 500 intents (action identified in a sentence) and 100 entities (information extracted to complete the task associated to the intent) per application. For example, a travel app with the Language Understanding service would extract from the sentence “Book me a ticket to Paris” an intent named BookFlight and entity Location as “Paris” to process the order. By recognizing and labeling the entities that are mentioned in the user’s utterance, the Language Understanding service helps to choose the specific action to take in order to answer a user's request.
  • Language Understanding is now available in seven new regions (South Central US, East US, West US 2, East Asia, North Europe, Brazil South, Australia East) on top of the five existing regions (West Europe, West US, East US2, West central US, South east Asia). This will help to improve network latency and bandwidth.
  • The Language Understanding service is also supporting more languages for its various features:
    • The prebuilt entities (representing common concepts like date and time) previously available in English are now available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
    • Prebuilt domains (off-the-shelf collections of intents and entities grouped by domain that you can directly add and use in your application) are now also available in Chinese
    • Phrase suggestions that help the developer customize Language Understanding service vocabulary to the bot domain vocabulary are available in seven new languages—Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian.

Read more information about the announcement.

Azure SQL Database | Automatic tuning improvements—GA

Azure SQL Database Automatic tuning improvements now available. There are now two new improvements for automatic tuning in Azure SQL Database. The first is a new feature called automatic plan correction that includes the tuning option “Force Last Good Plan.” The other feature includes the ability to configure automatic tuning through T-SQL, providing more flexibility in utilizing scripts to create and manage databases. Learn more about these new features.

Azure SQL Database | Elastic Database library for Java—GA

Elastic Database tools for Azure SQL Database. The Elastic Database client library for Azure SQL database is now generally available for Java. The client library provides tools to help developers scale out the data tier of their applications using sharding technology, including support for multi-tenancy patterns for Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Like the existing C# version, the Java version is open source, and we welcome contributions from the community. To learn more, visit the Building scalable cloud databases documentation webpage.

Azure security and operations management | Azure Site Recovery Deployment Planner enhancement

Azure Site Recovery is making it simpler to understand the components needed in your environment to achieve business continuity. Based on the RPO you're trying to achieve, Deployment Planner will provide you with insights into the network bandwidth and storage needed to achieve business continuity. Azure Site Recovery's Deployment Planner now supports Hyper-V in addition to supporting VMware. The cost planner tool inside the Deployment Planner can help you estimate your network, storage, and compute costs before you run your applications in Azure. Learn more about Azure Site Recovery Deployment Planner for VMware and Hyper-V

Microsoft Azure Information Protection | Create protected WPX on iOS

Create protected Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents on iOS devices. Users frequently work on sensitive content on their mobile devices. While working on mobile devices can enhance productivity and collaboration, it has also increased the risk of loss of sensitive information, either inadvertently or maliciously. We're excited to announce that you can now create protected Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents on your iOS devices. Learn more about this update, and read more about using information rights management in Office.

Microsoft Cloud App Security | Preview

Scan sensitive files in cloud apps and apply classification labels automatically. The new integration between Azure Information Protection and Microsoft Cloud App Security is now in preview. Microsoft Cloud App Security can scan and classify files in cloud apps and automatically apply Azure Information Protection labels for protection—including encryption. Learn more about cloud app security.