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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Microsoft Releases Azure Services Platform for the Cloud

Microsoft took the wraps off a new computing service that allows companies to use its data centers to run their Web applications.

Today, during a keynote speech at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC2008), Ray Ozzie, Microsoft?s chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the cloud-based service foundation underlying its Azure Services Platform, and highlighted this platform?s role in delivering a software plus services approach to computing.

"The Azure Services Platform is expected to help developers build the next generation of applications that will span from the cloud to the enterprise datacenter and deliver new experiences across the PC, Web and phone," Ozzie said.

Microsof described Windows Azure as "a platform that allows third-party developers to host, manage, calculate and store data for applications running on the Internet."

Microsoft's is pushing into cloud computing, a trend that taps into computing power in distant data centers and delivers applications over the Internet.

Traditionally, software has run on a single computer's hard drive, but as Internet connections became faster and more reliable, companies started to deliver software as an online service by using the computing power of the "cloud," a network of powerful computer servers accessed over the Web.

The Azure Services Platform provides developers with the flexibility and ability to create applications while taking advantage of their existing skills, tools and technologies such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio. Developers also can choose commercial or open source development tools and technologies, and access the Azure Services Platform using a variety of common Internet standards including HTTP, representational state transfer (REST), WS- and Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub).

Key components of the Azure Services Platform include the following:

- Windows Azure for service hosting and management, low-level scalable storage, computation and networking

- Microsoft SQL Services for a wide range of database services and reporting

- Microsoft .NET Services which are service-based implementations of familiar .NET Framework concepts such as workflow and access control

- Live Services for a consistent way for users to store, share and synchronize documents, photos, files and information across their PCs, phones, PC applications and Web sites

- Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for business content, collaboration and rapid solution development in the cloud

Microsoft wants to let other companies rent out its computing power so third-party developers can run applications over the Internet without the need for investments in data centers. It also allows companies the flexibility to increase or decrease computing needs according to demand.

Similar to how its Windows operating system became the main platform for programs on personal computers, Microsoft aims to be the platform of choice for Web applications.

Microsoft said Windows Azure differs from rival cloud computing offerings because it balances the work load required to run an online service over multiple machines in various locations on its own without a need for developers to provision the program to do so.

It allows the developer to focus purely on writing an online application versus worrying about data center failures, power outages or other potential problems.

Microsoft did not announce any details on pricing, saying it would depend on the level of usage -- usually, a per-hour rate -- and the level of service required. Ozzie said Windows Azure will be priced competitively with "the marketplace."

Dell said Microsoft has picked its computer servers for the company's data centers running Azure.

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