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Microsoft TechEd: Cloud Updates, Windows 10 Details

Microsoft announced a wide variety of Azure and Office 365 advances, new details about Windows 10.
Windows 10: 11 Big Changes
Windows 10: 11 Big Changes
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for any platform and with whatever tools they prefer.

The new APIs add to a busy week for Office 365. On Monday, Microsoft announced all Office 365 subscriptions will soon include unlimited OneDrive storage -- a significant upgrade that raises stakes for cloud storage competitors such as Dropbox, Apple, and Google.

Beyond the new APIs and SDKs, Microsoft also announced that Office 365 will feature built-in mobile-device management (MDM) features sometime next year. The addition should help IT admins manage not just mobile devices, but also the corporate data those devices contain. Integrated into Office 365 via Microsoft Intune, the MDM tools let admins manage not only Windows Phone devices, but also iOS and Android models. Intune will gain a range of other new features "in the next few months," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also announced that its data loss prevention (DLP) technology will be added to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Businesses "over the next few months." In other security-related announcements, Microsoft launched three enhancements for Azure VMs and service: support for multiple network interface cards, so customers can use their own networking and security appliances; new Network Security Groups that let admins set more granular policies and exert more control over network topology and traffic flows; and anti-malware services that run in the cloud.

As Microsoft's recent earnings report demonstrated, its cloud products are growing rapidly. Windows revenue continues to be a mixed bag; with Windows 8 still a flop two years into its lifecycle, Microsoft's long-term OS growth will rely in no small way on Windows 10, the desktop version of which was recently released as an early Technical Preview. At TechEd, corporate VP Joe Belfiore demonstrated several new features that will appear in future Preview builds.

Windows 10 will soon gain new trackpad gesture support. Users will be able to swipe down with three fingers to minimize all active windows, and to swipe up with three fingers to maximize them, for example. As some commentators have pointed out, similar functionality is already supported in Apple's OS X. Nevertheless, the new features demonstrate that after arguably overinvesting in touch interfaces with Windows 8, Microsoft wants to refine the keyboard-based PC experience with Windows 10. Belfiore also revealed that Windows 10 will gain improved app snapping for multi-monitor setups.

Microsoft customers will be waiting to see how Windows 10 pans out, but in the meantime, Azure has given them many new opportunities. Adam Salvo, a DevOps manager with Trek Bicycle Corp., said in an interview that after some growing pains years ago while Azure was still in preview mode, Microsoft's cloud products have been performing well.

"During public preview, we didn't have an SLA in place, and Microsoft was rebooting our VMs quite a lot, pushing platform updates behind the scenes," he said. "But after [officially launching], it's been rock solid."

Trek currently uses Azure for development and testing workloads, but Salvo said he is intrigued by new products such as the recently announced "G-series" virtual machines, which support up to 448 GB of RAM and 6.5 TB of SSD storage. "We're looking forward to larger VM sizes, and persistent storage will enable us to move more workloads out to Azure," he told us.

If you just look at vendor financials, the enterprise storage business seems stuck in neutral. However, flat revenue numbers mask a scorching pace of technical innovation, ongoing double-digit capacity growth in enterprises, and dramatic changes in how and where businesses store data. Get the 2014 State of Storage report today. (Free registration required.)