Microsoft has updated its Windows Azure cloud services with new capabilities aimed at customers using the platform to host websites, including support for staging and improved monitoring. The platform has also been validated for compliance with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.
The new capabilities are available to use immediately, although Microsoft cautioned that some of the features are still officially at the preview stage.
In addition to the features aimed at websites, Microsoft announced general availability of Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager (HRM), a cloud-based service that co-ordinates the replication and recovery of private cloud infrastructure to a secondary location for disaster recovery.
Meanwhile, of the new website-hosting capabilities, staged publishing support is being touted as the major improvement, enabling customers to deploy updates to their web apps or sites to a staging version of the site, accessed via a separate URL for test purposes.
Once testing is complete, users can instantaneously swap the live and staging sites, Microsoft said.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows Azure, wrote in a blog post that this would enable customers to deploy changes with more confidence.
"It ensures that your site is never in an inconsistent state (where some files have been updated and others not). Now you can immediately swap all changes to all of the files in one shot," he wrote.
Microsoft also said it is updating its monitoring of Azure services, with website statistics now being updated every minute via the monitoring dashboard, to deliver more fine-grained insight into what is happening with the site.
New in this update is the ability to set alerts for any SQL databases that websites and applications depend upon.
"Once you've set up these new alerts, they behave just like alerts for other services. You'll be informed when they cross the thresholds you establish, and you can see the recent alert history in the dashboard," wrote Guthrie.
Microsoft has also added support for Sencha Touch – a popular framework for building cross-platform mobile apps and websites – to Windows Azure Mobile Services.
Finally, Microsoft said Windows Azure has been validated for compliance with the PCI Data Security Standards (DSS) by an independent qualified security assessor.
The firm said it is making the Windows Azure PCI Attestation of Compliance and Windows Azure Customer PCI Guide available for immediate download, to help customers achieve their own PCI DSS certification.
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