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Windows Azure slated to go live in January 2010

Bridget Botelho
Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference 2009 (PDC09) kicked off Tuesday in Los Angeles with several announcements spotlighting Windows Azure.

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Introduced at PDC last year, Windows Azure is a cloud operating system (OS) that manages large pools of computing, storage and networking as a service. As of Jan.1, 2010, Windows Azure will be available as a production service for paying customers; billing will begin on Feb.1, 2010.

Microsoft added several new technologies to Azure and boasts major improvements in SQL Azure. SQL Azure is a Database as a Service offering that lets IT professionals create new databases whenever one is needed without having to consider disaster recovery, virtual machines or anything else involved in typical database deployments. It is automatic and works with existing SQL tools.

Microsoft also announced Microsoft Pinpoint, an online catalog of business services and applications that help IT pros and developers get software applications and services to market quickly. Pinpoint is integrated into the Azure developer portal and the partner network and it will be in the online portal for IT in the future.

The company also introduced a new information service code-named Dallas that delivers Data as a Service. Dallas is built on Azure and SQL Azure, and it is slated to serve as a marketplace for public and commercial data.

Some analysts say that Dallas will help attract a more entrepreneurial class of developers to Microsoft's new cloud platform. "It shows that Microsoft is going to start developing some apps and services on top of Azure," said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "It's a pretty interesting play, because it's going to be a new thing: a data brokerage for all these data services that need exposure."

And with a common API granting access to data across a number of providers, Dallas could require less developer effort to generate enterprise mashups, Sanfilippo said. Such ad hoc data integrations often rely on HTTP, but can require considerable data access coding to tie together.

Microsoft is also positioning Azure as an application service via Windows Server AppFabric Beta 1, a set of application services for deploying and managing applications on both Windows Server and Windows Azure. Windows Server AppFabric Beta 1 is currently available for download with alpha availability slated for 2010. Additional community technology previews (CTPs) of Windows Azure platform AppFabric technologies will also be made available in 2010.

Microsoft will also offer Windows Server virtual machine (VM) support on Windows Azure. Windows Azure "virtual machine roles" provide predefined server images that IT professionals can grab and access via Remote Desktop Protocol. Software can then be loaded onto the image. IT workers can take a VM snapshot of the image and use it in their infrastructures later, said Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft Server and Tools Division.

"This is similar to what Amazon does with both Windows and Linux today," Sanfilippo said. "I think that's part of customers' demand and part of being able to bridge the gap between being on premises and on the cloud."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.


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