Not all Azure Cloud services are available in every Region. In Azure, there are Recommended Regions and Alternate Regions. A Recommended region is a region that offers the broadest range of services and is designed to support Availability Zones now or at a future time. An Alternate region in Microsoft Azure is a region that extends the footprint of Azure services within a data residency boundary. A Recommended region would also exist in that boundary. An Alternate region is not designed to support Availability Zones in Azure and is labeled as Other in the Azure Portal.
Before cloud services can become GA or general availability in Azure, they first are in the private preview and public preview phases. Azure services in Public Preview are not available in all Azure regions. General Availability is when a service is considered to be ready for use by the public at large. GA means the software is ready, but the question of availability gets grouped into three categories in Azure. The category that the service is in determines when the product becomes available.
- Foundational – When a service is GA, it is available immediately or in 12 months in Recommended Regions or Alternate Regions.
- Mainstream – When the software is GA, it is available right away or in 12 months in Recommended Regions and may become available in Alternate Regions based on customer demand.
- Specialized – Both Recommended and Alternate Regions may have availability based on customer demand.
The standard lifecycle for Azure services released by Microsoft is Private Preview, Public Preview, and General Availability.
Azure Special Regions
Azure has specialized regions to meet compliance and legal obligations. This is especially true when considering cloud computing use by various governments. Some examples of specialized regions are the US DoD Central, US Gov Virginia, and US Gov Iowa. There are also top-secret locations that the public is not made aware of. There are also specialized regions in China East and China North available via a unique partnership between 21Vianet and Microsoft. These specialized regions are generally for government contractors or employees.