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ENTERPRISE PUBLIC CLOUD NEWS: Azure Container Instances can now for the first time be started through the portal, adding flexibility for Azure workflows.

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The Microsoft Azure portal home page has received a notable group of updates and upgrades for Azure users, starting with navigational improvements that make it easier to find and add functions.

The new capabilities, which also include improved dashboard tile functionality and improved Azure Container Instance integration, were announced recently by Leon Welicki, principal group program manager for Azure portal, in a post on the Microsoft AzureBlog.

"The new Azure portal home page is a quick and easy entry point into Azure," wrote Welicki. "From there, you can find recently visited resources, navigate to commonly used services and discover how to use specialized services to learn, monitor, secure and optimize your applications and infrastructure."

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The portal home page improvements include easier-to-find links for Azure services, including highlights at the top of the page, as well as simpler access to the entire list of available services. Also included is new quick access for the last 12 recently used resources, as well as access to additional earlier resources in an easy-to-use drop-down menu. That includes resources such as technical documents and product information that can help users stay informed about Azure.

Azure Mobile App Now Downloadable

Users can also now download the Azure mobile app so they can stay connected, informed and in control when they are on the go, wrote Welicki. "The new home page is an?addition to the user experience and does not need to replace your previously customized dashboard. You can choose to keep the new home page as your default, or you can change the default landing page back to your customized dashboard," Welicki wrote.

Also included are improvements for setting time ranges while using Azure dashboard tiles.

"Previously, the time range would need to be set individually for each tile on Azure dashboards, but you can now globally specify the time range for supported tiles," Welicki said. "Not all tiles support the globally shared time range, but those that do will show a filter icon in the top left and will light up when the shared time range dialog is open."

Tiles for Log Analytics queries and Azure Monitor metrics do support shared time range, but if a metric chart was pinned a long time ago, it might not support the shared time range and will have to be re-pinned through Azure Monitor, he said.

Now You Can Start Containers Inside the Portal

A major improvement in the Azure portal is the new capability to start Azure Container Instances (ACI) right in the portal. The ACI function allows users to quickly and easily run containers on Azure without managing servers or having to learn new tools.

"It is now possible to easily start and restart your containers in ACI via the portal," Welicki said. "If you have any stopped containers, a new 'Start' command will be available on the ACI overview page that will let you start all of your containers quickly and easily."

Users can test all new features in preview in the Azure portal by going to the preview test site.

Microsoft will soon be adding "how-to" videos about using Azure Portal through YouTube's Azure channel, where users can learn about specific features in order to become more productive using the portal.