The Troposphere

Oct 27 2008   10:28PM GMT

Microsoft launches Azure for cloud computing

Leah Rosin Leah Rosin Profile: Leah Rosin

Following on the heels of an IDC report predicting that cloud computing will capture IT spending growth over the next five years, another major player came to the cloud game on Monday. During a keynote speech at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC2008), Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Corp.’s chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the cloud-based service foundation underlying its Azure Services Platform.

The Azure platform combines cloud-based developer capabilities with storage, computational and networking infrastructure services hosted by Microsoft’s global datacenter network, providing developers the ability to deploy applications in the cloud or on-premises and enabling experiences across a range of business and consumer scenarios. A limited community technology preview (CTP) of the Azure Services Platform was initially made available to PDC2008 attendees.

“Today marks a turning point for Microsoft and the development community,” Ozzie said. “We have introduced a game-changing set of technologies that will bring new opportunities to Web developers and business developers alike. The Azure Services Platform, built from the ground up to be consistent with Microsoft’s commitment to openness and interoperability, promises to transform the way businesses operate and how consumers access their information and experience the Web. Most important, it gives our customers the power of choice to deploy applications in cloud-based Internet services or through on-premises servers, or to combine them in any way that makes the most sense for the needs of their business.”

The key components of Azure are summarized:

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

• Microsoft SQL Services for database services and reporting

• Microsoft .NET Services that 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 websites

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

Nicolas Carr shared some of the nitty-gritty details:

During its preview stage, Windows Azure will be available for free to developers. Once the platform launches commercially – and, according to Ozzie, Microsoft will be “intentionally conservative” in rolling out the full platform – pricing will be based on a user’s actual consumption of CPU time (per hour), bandwidth (per gigabyte), storage (per gigabyte) and transactions. The actual fee structure has not been released, though Ozzie says it will be “competitive with the marketplace” and will vary based on different available service levels.

Now, it’s not horribly shocking that Microsoft has joined the movement to the cloud. But it’s a bit amusing because a lot of the cloud effort has been generated by those anti-Windows programmers, looking to share applications that directly compete with the Microsoft product suite. As I read through David Chappell’s Azure white paper, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read this: “The Windows Azure compute service is based, of course, on Windows.”

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