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Azure will be popular with .Net developers, but questions remain on application deployment

Microsoft this week released the pricing details and business plan for its Azure cloud computing platform, but developers still had questions about how much of their code they could deploy when migrating.

As Microsoft this week released the pricing details and business plan for its cloud computing platform, Azure, developers still had questions about how much of their code they could deploy when migrating.

Ed Laczynski, chief technology officer at LTech Consulting, said the price -- 12 cents per hour compute and 15 cents per GB/hour of storage -- seems competitive with offerings from Amazon.com and other competitors. But because Microsoft is to the cloud computing game, he said, one of the tech giant's goals is likely retaining Microsoft development shops as customers.

The major question Laczynski had is just how much use of native code Microsoft will allow in Azure.

"As it stands today, you can't use as much of your existing IP and existing code and port it over," he said. "You have to use their [new] APIs."

Azure pricing details
Though recent announcements suggested that Microsoft will allow more use of native code than originally anticipated, a move in this direction could be damaging to parts of the company's business.

"They have to preserve their on-premise software business," said Laczynski. "They make a lot of money with SQL Server on premise. Are they really going to be able to cannibalize that business?"

Many developers hope that Microsoft will embrace open Web standards. In the past, Microsoft has sought to influence standards in the spaces it inhabits. In this case, Laczynski said it would be counterproductive.

"Companies can try to force standards," he said. "But the cloud ecosystem is so young that any attempt to standardize it beyond open Web standards is futile. The people that are innovating right now are all using these open source technologies because they're based on open Web standards."

On a positive note
But in all of this, what is getting a lot of .Net developers excited is the SQL Azure Database, which promises to allow developers to take their existing knowledge of SQL Server into the cloud.

"Our problems have been at the hardware level," said Jason Keicher, director of technology at LTech. "If I can leverage all my SQL Server knowledge and power and not have to worry about the hardware behind it, that's amazing."

Another area Keicher said Microsoft would have an edge with Azure is in integrating Visual Studio. This means a large number of developers will already be familiar with one possible Azure development environment.

"It's the same as learning a new library or set of services," said Keicher. "I think for a lot of .Net developers at this point, it's going to be a much more natural progression."

Microsoft has shown signs of reworking Azure's data architecture to meet customer demands.

"Over the past 10 months, since Microsoft announced Azure at PDC last year, they have made changes that has made the platform work better with code developed on premise," said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. Adding Full Trust and FastCGI made a lot of customers happy, he said.

"Now you can run some native code up on the cloud in Azure. Up until they made this change, it was really managed code only in Azure," Sanfilippo said.

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