Azure expands, while security, storage, APIs lift Office 365

Microsoft uncaps Office 365 storage, adds APIs, increases security, and boosts Azure's capabilities

It’s been a busy week for Microsoft, with updates to Office 365 features and enhancements to its cloud offerings announced at the TechEd Europe 2014 conference.

Here are the key developments.

OneDrive gets unlimited storage. Microsoft has effectively ended the size wars in cloud storage by playing the "unlimited" card. Office 365 customers were told earlier in the year that they could have 1TB, but that limit will soon go away.

Dropbox and others will likely follow suit. But looking at the Dropbox plan of $15 per user per month, I can't help but wonder why anyone would pay the fee when they can get a full Office 365 plan with the Office 2013 applications and a mailbox for $12.50 per user per month.

API and development tool availability for Office 365. Microsoft announced general availability this week of the Office 365 RESTful APIs for mail, files, calendar, and contacts. It also offered new mobile SDKs for native app development for Android, iOS, and Visual Studio. Finally, it extended the Office 365 app launcher to provide a single point of access for apps other than Office 365.

Enhanced security features for Office 365. Microsoft is extending DLP (data loss prevention) capabilities beyond Exchange Online to apply to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. The ability to provide policy over SharePoint and OneDrive should help protect sensitive content. DLP notifications will also be added to Office applications next year.

Microsoft Intune updates. New features coming to the service (previously called Windows Intune) in the months ahead include Office mobile app management, line-of-business wrap-management technology, and improved secure mobile app viewing.  Microsoft also announced mobile device management for Office 365 that uses built-in Intune capabilities for iOS, Android, and Windows to use policy-driven management and wipe the device of corporate data if necessary.

Azure enhancements. Microsoft announced a variety of new Azure features and tools:

  • Azure Operational Insights: Now in preview, this pulls together Azure, HDInsight, and System Center to collect and analyze machine data. It should help with visibility into data center capacity (such as shortages), track changes in your environment, and ensure servers are up to date.
  • Azure Batch: This provides job scheduling as a service, so you can run high-performance computing scenarios in Azure.
  • Azure Automation: This feature orchestrates time-consuming tasks to streamline IT operations.
  • Azure Virtual Machines and Cloud Services: Enhancements include support for multiple NICs, so you can use your own network security appliance like load balancers and firewalls, the addition of new network security groups, and a free real-time threat protection service called Microsoft Anti-Malware for Virtual Machines and Cloud Services. Azure Active Directory updates include Azure AD Application Proxy, so you can publish on-premises applications to external users through the cloud and AD Connect.

Since Microsoft shifted to a cloud-based delivery model, it has been aggressively developing and releasing new features -- both large and small -- to its cloud offerings. We’ll simply have to keep up, apparently.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.