What’s New for Azure App Service – Fall Ignite 2022 Edition

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New @ Fall Ignite 2022

As we roll into the first in-person (hybrid) Ignite since 2019, Azure App Service has a raft of new features arriving over the remainder of 2022!   Building on the recent GA of WordPress support on Linux App Service, the team is introducing the public preview of Azure Front Door integration, bringing increased scalability and performance to customers running WordPress on App Service.  App Service Environment v3 (ASEv3) customers now have control over platform maintenance with the recent public preview of 15-day advanced notice for planned maintenance.  And in November App Service will introduce new more powerful SKU options for ASEv3 customers as well.  App Service is also rolling out a bevy of new language support and new application features on the platform during November, so read on for all the details!

 

Ignite 2022 Session Content

For customers attending (virtually or in-person) Ignite 2022, we have pointers below on sessions where Azure App Service will be included and where customers can engage in Q&A with the team!

 

How modernizing enterprise applications gives you a competitive advantage

Wednesday, October 12

1:00PM – 1:45PM Pacific Daylight Time

Session Link (Digital Session) (Session code: BRK43)

 

Ask the Experts:  How modernizing enterprise applications gives you a competitive advantage

Wednesday, October 12

3:00PM – 3:30PM Pacific Daylight Time

Session Link (Digital and In-Person Ask-the-Experts) (Session code: CATE43H)

 

Expert Meet-up:  Modernize Apps with Azure PaaS

Thursday, October 13

11:30AM – 1:00PM Pacific Daylight Time

Session Link (In-Person Expert Meet-up) (Session code: WACEM15)

 

Also check out this Ignite 2022 blog post rollup showing how customers benefit from Application Innovation via Application Modernization, Cloud-Native Apps, and Low-Code Applications! 

 

New Language Support: Python, Node, .NET, PHP, Wordpress and Go

With the leaves falling this time of the year that can mean only one thing:  new language options must be arriving.  And sure enough, there is an App Service platform update which will be completed in November bringing with it a passel of new language support!

 

Python developers will be happy to see Python 3.10 built into the platform, with Python 3.11 also slated to arrive in “early access ” after its official GA release.  For curious developers this article has a great summary of how early access and built-in languages work on the App Service platform.  Node 18 will also be arriving as a new built-in language option.  For PHP developers, PHP 8.1 will be an additional built-in option, with PHP 8.2 planned to be available in “early access” once it is officially GA’d as well.

 

Speaking of PHP, if developers didn’t see the recent announcement, the team just GA’d an optimized WordPress offering on Linux App Service with built-in caching and Azure CDN integration.  The team also recently released an initial set of migration guidance to help customers migrate their WordPress sites onto Linux App Service.

 

At Ignite 2022 the team is introducing the public preview of Azure Front Door integration with WordPress!  Azure Front Door is a modern cloud content delivery network service that delivers high performance, scalability, and secure user experiences for your content and applications.  By providing Internet “on-ramps” to Azure that are closer to customers, Azure Front Door significantly reduces latency and helps increased perceived page load performance for customers. Faster page loads will not only improve your WordPress users’ experience but will also have a positive impact on search engine rankings.  The integration with Azure Front Door expands the reach of customer WordPress sites to 118+ Azure edge locations with no configuration or additional code required.

 

There was a fascinating behind-the-scenes article a few weeks ago describing how the App Service front-ends were updated to a new architecture based on Kestrel + YARP.  Amongst myriad benefits, this unlocked the ability to serve gRPC-over-HTTP/2 on Azure App Service.  The team has published examples using gRPC with both .NET and Python, with additional Node and Java examples coming soon.  Since Go and gRPC go together (pun intended) like peanut butter and jelly, the November platform update will also include the Go language for the first time on Linux App Service!  Both v1.18 and v1.19 will be available as “experimental early access” languages - see this article for examples of developing with Go on App Service.

 

Of course, a Fall Ignite language announcement wouldn’t be complete without an update on .NET!  Developers have had access to .NET 7 previews on App Service for the last few months.  Both the Windows and Linux variants of App Service are scheduled to be updated with the .NET 7 GA release which is expected at .NET Conf in November!

 

Application Insights “On By Default” for .NET and Java

When you create a new web application using the Azure portal, there is a “Monitoring” tab where developers can optionally setup Application Insights for their web apps.  This feature enables Application Insights’ auto-instrumentation capability where telemetry is collected without the need to make any modifications to your code, or include any SDKs.  With the new "On By Default” experience in App Service, Application Insights will soon be automatically enabled when creating new .NET and Java web applications in the Azure portal. The new “On By Default” experience is expected to be available later in October.  An example of the new portal behavior is shown below:

Application Insights On By DefaultApplication Insights On By Default

 

App Service Environment v3:  Powerful SKUs and New Planned Maintenance Options

App Service Environment v3 (ASEv3) customers will soon get access to powerful new SKU options in November, with support being added for 16 vCPU/64 GB, 32 vCPU/128 GB and 64 vCPU/ 256GB sizes.  These new SKUs address customer needs for workloads running in a dedicated tenant with higher memory requirements and more demanding request per second (RPS) scenarios.

 

Potentially even more interesting than new hardware is the introduction of planned maintenance for ASEv3 customers!  ASEv3 has supported the concept of early/late upgrade preference whereby an ASEv3 is either upgraded earlier or later in the App Service platform’s deployment order.  With the addition of a new upgrade preference (called “manual upgrade”) the new planned maintenance capability notifies customers 15 days in advance of planned platform upgrades.  Once a customer has been notified of planned maintenance, they can trigger the platform maintenance anytime during the next 15 days. 

 

The planned maintenance notification is available as a Service Health alert, which enables you to programmatically handle the notification.  The planned maintenance can then be triggered at a time that is optimal for an individual customer’s needs.  The maintenance can be triggered interactively through the portal, or programmatically via CLI/API calls. 

 

The team has just published two great examples demonstrating how to automate handling planned maintenance notification.  This great blog article with sample code demonstrates handling the planned maintenance notification as well as automating the subsequent triggering of the maintenance.  The second blog article shows how to automate planned maintenance using a cross-region ASEv3 DR pair running behind Azure Front Door (AFD) so that planned maintenance only occurs on each ASEv3 after being temporarily taken out of rotation in AFD.

 

Easier Certificate Binding and Customizable TLS Cipher Suites

Customers commonly bring custom domains to their apps running on App Service, and then choose from a variety of TLS certificate options to bind a custom certificate to their domains.  A very popular option is the App Service Managed Certificate feature where customers get a free certificate to secure their custom domain.  Managed certificates are automatically renewed on the customer’s behalf, thus making managed certificates a low overhead “set it and forget it" feature.

 

The team has been working on an update to the Azure portal which will make it even easier to obtain a managed TLS certificate as part of the custom domain configuration experience.  The new user interface will go-live in November, but you can check out an early sneak peek below! 

 

Add a Custom Domain with a Managed CertificateAdd a Custom Domain with a Managed Certificate

A somewhat more esoteric topic for TLS is the area of cipher suites.  Although App Service Environments (ASE) have supported the option to explicitly customize TLS cipher suites, a similar capability has not been available on the public multi-tenant variant of App Service (i.e. customers not running on ASEs).  Security conscious customers may want to modify TLS cipher suites to trim off older suites that the App Service platform supports for client compatibility.  The recent update to the App Service front-ends has opened up the capability to bring this type of TLS cipher suite customization to customers running on the public multi-tenant footprint deployed in Premium App Service Plans (Pv2 and Pv3)!  The option to remove cipher suites from the default cipher suite list of an individual web application has just recently entered early public preview and can now be configured via ARM - more details on how to use the feature is available here.  In the coming months TLS cipher suite customization will also be supported in the Azure portal making it more broadly accessible.

 

Transmogrifying HTTP Responses:  Gzip, Brotli, and HTTP Error Pages

It is common to tweak HTTP response handling, both to optimize performance as well as to handle error cases in a manner that is visually consistent with the rest of your web site.  To reduce HTTP response sizes as much as possible, App Service supports both Gzip as well as Brotli compression for various language + operating system combinations.  However, developers need to understand how to enable/disable compression options across Windows and Linux variants of App Service, as well as across different language options.  The team is working on compression examples covering popular OS + language combinations that will make it easier for developers to take advantage of these compression options.  Stay tuned and periodically check out this document repo for updated samples and information!

 

Another common request is to serve custom error pages for specific HTTP error codes that usually are transparently handled by the App Service platform.  Since the front-end part of the App Service platform isn’t directly accessible, controlling the HTML text served in a “503 Service Unavailable” response for an overloaded site (as an example) was either impossible, or required over-engineering for what should be a simple edge case behavior.  Again, due to the recent front-end architecture upgrade, we are happy to say that the current top voted customer ask on App Service for custom error pages will soon be available!  The capability should light up on the platform a little later here in 2022, so stay tuned for the announcement on Azure Updates.

 

Automatic Scaling for Dedicated App Service Plans

Late last year App Service introduced an early preview of a new automatic scaling capability for dedicated app service plans (specifically PremiumV2 and PremiumV3).  Think of it as “adaptive cruise control” for web apps, making it much easier to delegate scale-in/out decisions to the App Service platform rather than having to tweak and manage auto-scale settings.  Architecturally this feature is a derivative of Azure Function’s Elastic Premium HTTP scaler but modified to specifically work with regular web applications.

 

We’re happy to say that we have continued to tweak and improve the feature, with a planned update to the Azure portal scheduled for later in 2022 that will expose this as a new easy-to-use scaling option!  For a recap of the technical details and capabilities of the feature see this article.  Below is a sneak peek of the new automatic scaling UX that will arrive later in 2022:

Automatic Scaling for App Service (Preview)Automatic Scaling for App Service (Preview)

And as always, keep an eye on out for the announcement on Azure Updates when the new UX goes live!

 

Next Steps

Azure App Service is a great option for developers who are updating their web applications and data to a cloud-first model.  With Azure App Service, developers can focus their investments on Application Innovation rather than managing backend complexities, empowering developers to have a security-first mindset and create an upskilling path for developers to innovate faster.

 

Developers who are new to App Service can learn more about building their first web app using one of our many Quickstart guides.  And keep up to date about all of the ongoing innovation on Azure App Service via Azure Updates!

 

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