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Microsoft Windows Azure enhancements appeal to developers

Microsoft may finally "get" the cloud, say users and analysts who saw new and updated features for Windows Azure last week.

Microsoft has finally addressed the missing features that Windows Azure customers have demanded and has added better IaaS and PaaS support to make the cloud platform more attractive to enterprises.

The latest Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) capabilities, called persistent virtual machine roles, support legacy applications in the cloud, along with Linux workloads.

The updates are Microsoft’s response to customers’ demands for a heterogeneous cloud environment, said Wade Wegner, CTO at Aditi Technologies, a Microsoft Cloud Partner based in India.

"Support of persistent VMs opens up a lot of new capabilities that users wouldn't have looked at before. ... IaaS changes that," Wegner said.

 "IaaS is where the money is," he added.

Last week, Microsoft also began previews of Windows Azure Web Sites (WAWS), an Azure facility that will let developers create and deploy websites, including support for multiple frameworks.

Microsoft finally got it figured out.

Roger Jennings, Windows Azure MVP and developer

In addition, WAWS will include open source applications, such as WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal. The goal is to make Windows Azure an economical home for customers' websites.

Ultimately, though, the target is Platform as a Service (PaaS).

"WAWS will be a natural first stop for many firms on the way to full-blown, scalable PaaS applications," said Mark Eisenberg, director at enterprise application firm Fino Consulting LLC, based in New York City.

"It will be very easy and cost effective to get started with lighter Web workloads using WAWS and then add additional functionality using the power of the full Windows Azure services," he said.

Azure improvements appeal to developers
The updates could turn out to be a winning combination, according to customers and other cloud observers.

"Somebody called it 'Azure 2.0,' and I agree that it's the second generation of Windows Azure," said Roger Jennings, a Windows Azure MVP and developer.

"Microsoft finally got it figured out," he added.

Jennings is encouraged by improvements for developers who want to build applications using non-Microsoft tools -- such as Python and Node.js -- instead of primarily .NET tools.

It's a sentiment shared by Charles King, principal analyst at corporate advisory firm Pund-IT, Inc., in Hayward, Calif.

"[Previously,] Microsoft seemed to be going after a Microsoft .NET language audience all the time," King said. "Now, they're going to support a brand new developer audience. ... It's a reboot."

What Microsoft has now is a “full spectrum” offering, said Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president at Kirkland, Wash.-based research group Directions on Microsoft. "Azure is very strong in the cloud market now," he said.  

Sanfilippo expects Microsoft to make further announcements this week at its TechEd conference for IT pros and developers in Orlando, Fla.


Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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Do Microsoft's updates to Windows Azure make you more likely to try it?