New enhancements for Windows Azure include import/export of hard disk drives

Once every two to three weeks Microsoft releases new enhancements to Windows Azure. Today annoucements were:

  • Storage: Import/Export Hard Disk Drives to your Storage Accounts
  • Virtual Machines: New VM Gallery, ACL support for VIPs
  • HDInsight: General Availability of our Hadoop Service in the cloud
  • Web Sites: WebSocket and Remote Debugging Support
  • Notification Hubs: Segmented customer push notification support with tag expressions
  • TFS & GIT: Continuous Delivery Support for Web Sites + Cloud Services
  • Developer Analytics: New Relic support for Web Sites + Mobile Services
  • Service Bus: Support for partitioned queues and topics
  • Billing: New Billing Alert Service that sends emails notifications when your bill hits a threshold you define

Import and export of storage
When customers want to transfer large amounts of data to Windows Azure the only available method was uploading data over network connections. This could take a long time to complete and it could interfere with business critical network traffic.

Today Microsoft announced the ability to import data to Azure datacenters and to export data from datacenters  using hard disks. The Import/Export service which is now in Preview can only accept shipments that originate from U.S. locations. Also the import feature is only run from a couple of US datacenters. If the data needs to be stored in an European or Asian datacenter, the harddisk is first shipped to a US datacenter and then the data is sent over a network conection  to the destination datacenter. During the Preview only FedEx is supported.

For an export job, Microsoft will charge for data being tranfered out of a datacenter.  The SATA hard disk is required to be encrypted using BitLocker.

Another new feature is the ability to recieve an email alert for a bill total of when a monthly limit has been reached. This prevents surprises when the credit card bill is received.

Read about all the enhancements announced today here