Windows Azure cloud OS gets geolocation support

Redmond (WA) – Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud application platform, now supports a geolocation feature to improve the performance of hosted applications and reduce latency.

The new feature, which went live late last week, enables Azure users to specify what the company calls an “affinity” between different hosted services and storage accounts. When creating a new storage account or hosted service, the Azure GUI displays an “affinity group” section, in which users choose the location where they want their hosted service or storage to run. Since Microsoft is still ramping the service, there are only three datacenters available, “USA – Anywhere,” “USA – Northwest,” and “USA – Southwest”.

The company claims that the geolocation feature can improve the performance of an application through high bandwidth and low latency by making sure that the geographical distance between an application and its external data is as small as possible.

“Using our new geo-location functionality, you can now specify an affinity between different hosted services and storage accounts,” Microsoft said. “This is better than just choosing the same region, because it tells Windows Azure that you want everything in this affinity group to be as close as possible.  We’ll use that information to make decisions about exactly how to lay out applications and data in the data center.”   

According to Microsoft, the geolocation feature is also necessary for legal reasons since many Azure users apparently have “requirements on where they can place their code and data and where they cannot.” Also, the company said that users requested multiple geographic locations to support secure backups and ensure a smooth disaster recovery, if necessary.