Almost a quarter of all sites on the web today run WordPress (including TechCrunch), but it’s not the easiest content management system to scale up for high-traffic sites. A bit of basic caching goes a long way, but to run a very large site — or to manage a huge visitor spike from Reddit and similar services — you need a bit more than a cheap virtual private server. With Azure Websites, Microsoft has been offering the ability to easily set up a WordPress site for a while now, but starting today, it is offering a far more scalable solution.
Azure users can now head to Azure’s App Gallery and spin up a version of what Microsoft calls “Scalable WordPress.” With just a few clicks, this will set up Azure Storage for storing all media assets and give users access to a curated set of WordPress plug-ins that are optimized for performance. Unlike the standard WordPress installs on Azure, this will also use a higher-end (and pricier) MySQL database.
For the most part, Microsoft is aiming this service at enterprise users. Given the popularity of WordPress, a number of services like WP Engine and Pantheon have sprung up around it that offer specialized hosting services for the platform. Many of those companies, too, are targeting enterprises. Unlike Azure, however, these platforms offer a completely managed service. Still, Microsoft surely hopes that it can capture business from at least a few companies that are able and willing to run their own WordPress installs by making it easier to set up a scalable version on its platform.
As part of today’s update, Microsoft is also launching the ability to securely connect to virtual machines and cloud services through a VPN. Other updates include the launch of role-based access controls, as well as a couple of new features for the Azure Media Services around live streaming, content protection and media indexing (through speech recognition). Azure’s API Management service is also now generally available (which in Microsoft speak means it now features an SLA).