Microsoft unveils Azure Key Vault and big strong servers

Microsoft caused a bit of a stir in October when it announced plans for big cloud servers with up to 32 cores, 450 gigabytes of RAM and 6.5 terabytes of local SSD. As of Thursday, those G-series instances (or VMs, in Azure-speak) are available. See the chart below for versions and pricing.

Also new for the [company]Microsoft[/company] public cloud: a preview version of Azure Key Vault, which will let customers control their encryption keys and passwords without having to resort to an on-premises Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliance.

As we’ve seen over and over, Microsoft is racing to add features and services to its cloud to make it more competitive with [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services. (As an interesting aside, the new AWS C4 Family of instances, pre-announced in November, were apparently ready to roll last week when an errant blog post slipped out, but are still not officially available.)

Azure Key Vault pricing

Cloud security is key

One leg of that race is adding ever more powerful instances or servers along with price cuts the longer the instances are on the market. Another leg, in the wake of Sony and other publicized data breaches, is bulletproofing public clouds as those vendors know that security is the primary concern for coveted enterprise accounts.

A recent Piper Jaffray survey of 112 CIOs found that a majority (73 percent) plan to budget dollars for private, public or hybrid cloud projects this year. But 35 percent of them also said security concerns would keep their data on premises, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

“In light of the increasing number of security breaches, we believe the movement of data and workloads to a public cloud provider will likely remain muted in 2015,” the report said.

That’s the rationale behind Azure Key Vault, the AWS Key Management Service Amazon announced in November and an array of third-party tools that integrate with cloud compute and storage offerings.

One more thing

Finally, in its effort to embrace popular Docker container technology, Microsoft company has added a Docker engine — as part of an Ubuntu Linux image — to its Azure marketplace.

“This is a simple, fast way to get started,” Corey Sanders, partner director of program management for Azure, told me in an interview. Users can pull the Ubuntu image down and just get going. “It gets rid of roadblocks so you can get up and running in minutes with Docker.”

Microsoft Azure G-Series pricing