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Microsoft Launches Azure Beta

Ray Ozzie and Robert Muglia present Microsoft's Azure cloud services at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, Microsoft demonstrated how far it has come in incorporating cloud concepts into its product set.

Microsoft's chief software architect Ray Ozzie and president of the company's server and tool business, Robert Muglia, talked up the Azure cloud services.

"There is no question the cloud is the next generation application model and Microsoft will take you there," Muglia told an auditorium full of Windows and .Net developers at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Microsoft made its Azure cloud services generally available Tuesday in beta form. For select companies, they've already been available for months.

In January, Azure will be available for production use. Microsoft will not charge customers for Azure services during the month of January, as it tests and works out kinks in the billing and chargeback systems. The meter starts running Feb. 1.

Microsoft has designed Azure so that it will federate internal Windows Server operations in the data center and pooled, virtualized Windows Server clusters in the cloud.

Sometime next year, Active Directory will be able to issue a federated identity that will be recognized in the enterprise data center and in Azure. SGL Server database operations will be able to be coordinated with SQL Azure operations in the cloud.

Douglas Purdy, a Microsoft Azure architect, demonstrated the database coordination by using enterprise SQL Server to update an imaginary Web travel application, TailSpin. It's not ready yet for public consumption, but Microsoft is working on a database application modeling system that would represent both on-premises operations and cloud operations in one model.

With such a model, a database manager for the TailSpin Web site, noticing an increase in traffic, could order the on-premises SQL Server to put key data into a caching mechanism to speed response times, for example.

Some corporate data is considered too sensitive to ship off to the cloud. But with this type of coordinated operation, application developers may one day get the best of both worlds.

Part of Azure will be an AppFabric that will provide "middle tier" services, coordination operations between cloud and data center. Microsoft, in the first half of 2010, will also launch Visual Studio 2010 and .Net 4.0, both currently in beta, which will bring easier access to Azure cloud services through Microsoft's core development tools.

Ozzie and Muglia's presentations were greeted with applause by the thousands of developers assembled for the conference. Ozzie said the cloud will re-vitalize Windows as a user platform.

InformationWeek and Dr. Dobb's have published an in-depth report on how Web application development is moving to online platforms. Download the report here (registration required).

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