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Microsoft Offers Azure Availability, New Tools

Ray Ozzie speaks at Microsoft PDC 09
Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie speaks at PDC 09

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft kicked off its Professional Developer Conference (PDC09) with the announcement that its Windows Azure cloud platform would be available on Jan. 1, 2010, and new features and functionality would quickly follow suit.

It was just a year ago here in the Los Angeles Convention Center that Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie announced the Azure cloud platform. Since then Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has deployed massive datacenters in Chicago, San Antonio, Ireland, Amsterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong in preparation.

Microsoft has also prepared the tools to lay the groundwork for its "software-plus-services" strategy. The tools are designed to help developers write apps for local, on-premises deployment or on the Azure cloud, using the same code base for either environment, and in many cases, not having to change a line of code when moving from one platform to another.

Much of Ozzie's talk today centered around tools and back-end support. He noted that Azure developers could now use not only .Net tools, but also the Zend framework, MySQL, Java, PHP and Eclipse. It reflects quite a shift from Microsoft's old "not invented here" mentality of just a few years back.

Under the Azure platform, developers will be able to pick the datacenter of their choice, and the rest is handled by Microsoft. The database software, called SQL Azure, is "not just a veneer over SQL Server," but a true distributed database that handles all automation, replication and backup on the cloud, Ozzie said.

He then announced Microsoft Pinpoint, a catalog for developers and IT professionals to sell their services and apps. He offered few details except that it would launch next year.

Ozzie also introduced a new information service, Microsoft "Dallas," which will be available through Pinpoint and built completely on the Windows Azure platform. Dallas will enable developers and users to access premium commercial and reference datasets and content on any platform.

Microsoft has already lined up a variety of structured content datasets for Dallas, including the Associated Press, Citysearch, DATA.gov, NASA and the United Nations. Dallas is available effective today as a limited community technology preview (CTP) for developers.

Vivek Kundra, the federal government CIO, appeared by video to encourage more projects like Dallas and the "democratization of data." He discussed how the Department of Defense freed up the GPS satellite systems (in the 1980s), which spawned the commercial GPS market. Kundra urged the developers in the audience to look at the information at Data.gov to help drive innovation across the economy.

Next up was Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's server and tools business, who went into further detail on the company's roadmap and outlined more coming products.

"The cloud is more than just about infrastructure. It's also about an app model," he told the audience. Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, would have been impossible to do from a personnel standpoint under the old model because it would require so much human intervention, Muglia explained.

[cob:Special_Report]Microsoft built something called Auto Pilot to monitor the servers. If something goes down, such as a server, it's taken offline until someone can take a look at what's wrong and relaunch it.

As such, the cloud requires new app management tools. Muglia announced "Project Sydney," which would provide a secure connection between local servers and the Azure cloud services. It will come out next year.

He also unveiled Windows Server AppFabric Beta 1, a set of integrated, high-level application services to easily deploy and manage applications across both local servers and the cloud.

The AppFabric technology combines hosting and caching technologies with the Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus and AppFabric Access Control (formerly referred to as .NET Services). Together, these technologies will allow for the same application services either locally or in the cloud, and from the same code base.

Muglia today also introduced Windows Server virtual machine support on Windows Azure, enabling customers to more easily support a virtualized infrastructure across both on-premises and cloud computing.

Finally, Muglia announced that Windows Identity Foundation has gone final, and will be available for download. Muglia also previewed a new release of ASP.NET MVC2 beta, a framework the company offers to support AJAX developers building Web applications.