Microsoft showcased new functions for its Windows Azure platform Thursday that promises to ease the burden of transitioning to cloud environments as well as the concerns of developers looking to build cloud-friendly apps with rich, immersive experiences. The software giant said its focus remains on delivering Windows Azure with a full range of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capabilities.
"All of us who are familiar with writing applications know that there's a lot of infrastructure we have to deal with," said Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's server and tools business. "With PaaS, all of that infrastructure is handled for you."
The entire operating-system environment is maintained, improved and enhanced over time with new features and capabilities while remaining compatible, Muglia observed. "And so you can focus on what really matters to you and to your business, which is the app," Muglia said during his keynote speech at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Redmond, Wash.
Breadth of Services
Muglia said only Windows Azure delivers a general-purpose PaaS with the breadth of services to enable developers and IT specialists to focus on applications rather than the underlying infrastructure. For example, Muglia noted it's now possible to bring a VM rollout onto Windows Azure.
"So you can take a Windows Server 2008 R2 image that you've built with Hyper-V in your environment, move that into the Windows Azure environment, and run it as is with no changes," Muglia said.
Windows Azure also now offers support for a wider range of standard Windows apps, with more in the works. What's more, the software giant has retooled existing App-V technology on the Windows client for Windows Azure cloud environments. This will enable developers to "take an existing app, and then deploy that application without going through its installation process into a Windows Azure worker role," Muglia said.
Forthcoming Windows Azure features slated for introduction later this year include a virtual network capability, support for multiple administrators, smaller instances of Windows Azure, and a remote desktop capability, Muglia observed. Also in the works is full IIS support for enabling "a broad set of new applications, smooth streaming applications as well as having any number of web sites on a single server, in a single role," he said.
Microsoft seems to be moving fast into the cloud -- to some extent potentially faster than its customers are willing to go because use-case scenarios for cloud computing are still being worked out in the industry, noted Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.
"For example, small and midsize businesses who have been the most interested in SaaS solutions do not tend to want to build their own apps," Hilwa explained. "So getting Azure adopted is a matter of promoting it to ISVs who serve this market."
Larger companies are more interested in the private cloud, which is essentially a form of virtualization today, Hilwa observed. "What Microsoft seems to be doing is permeating Azure integration from all of its parts and departments," Hilwa said.
Hilwa said he was impressed with the many new capabilities that Microsoft announced at PDC 10, such as the VM role which will allow many applications to run unmodified in Azure. "These may be good first steps that some companies can take with their apps today, assuming the economics make sense," Hilwa added.