PDC: Microsoft Calls New Cloud Computing OS a 'Turning Point' for Company
At its Professional
in Los Angeles this week, Microsoft is unveiling the
end-to-end vision for its Software plus Services platform.
On Monday, key executives and partners gave a two-and-a-half-hour keynote on
what Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie termed the "back-end" infrastructure
for the company's emerging cloud platform. The biggest news: Microsoft is running
a kernel operating system (Project Red Dog) on its connected servers in its
datacenters. The new service-based operating system is called Windows Azure.
"It's the transformation of our software, it's the transformation of our
strategy and our offerings across the board to fundamentally embrace services,"
said Ozzie, who described the new Azure platform as a turning point for Microsoft.
Azure is Microsoft's operating system for the Web tier, he explained, joining
Windows Server in the enterprise and Vista and Windows Mobile in what he called
the "experience" tier.
"Windows Azure is our lowest-level foundation for building and deploying
a high-scale service," Ozzie said, "providing core capabilities such
as virtualized computation, scalable storage in the form of blobs, tables and
streams and, perhaps most importantly, an automated service management system,
a fabric controller that handles provisioning, geo-distribution and the entire
lifecycle of a cloud-based service."
Microsoft also announced the Azure Services Platform for developers, which sits
on top of Azure. It is comprised of several components including Live Services,
.NET Services, SQL Services (Reporting and Data Analysis in addition to SQL
Data Services which has been renamed), SharePoint Online and Dynamic CRM Online.
The .NET Services, for now, consist of a service bus for connecting on-premise
apps to the cloud, access control that enables federation across existing identity
providers into the cloud and workflow that will be extended to cloud services.
Developers will build applications based on service models and patterns using
the functionality in the Azure Service Platform and familiar tooling such as
ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2008, as well as the new "Oslo" modeling
The Azure platform manages apps separately from the operating system. The platform
offers a simulation of the cloud for debugging and testing on the local development
desktop. Developers provide Microsoft with the code for the service and the
architecture of the service model, and the company provided automated service
Early adopters that showed Silverlight applications running on the Azure platform
during the keynote and a follow-up session included Bluehoo, which highlighted
a social networking mobile app that uses Bluetooth to find people in close proximity
with similar interests; and FullArmor, a startup that created a Policy Portal
already in use by the Ethiopian government.
First Look at Windows Azure
PDC attendees are getting a first look at the Azure SDK and key platform components,
specifically Live Services, .NET Services and SQL Services. The Azure
Services Platform was launched at noon PST on Monday.
The first CTP will showcase a "fraction of the features," according
to Microsoft. For example the Azure storage features in the CTP support blobs,
queues and simple tables, but more advanced features such field streams, caches
and locks are not exposed in the preview.
Attendees can sign up and request service activation free of charge, and Microsoft
will respond with a token within two weeks. After two weeks, the CTP, which
supports ASP.NET and .NET languages, will become open to all MSDN subscribers,
according to Microsoft. Support for native code and PHP are planned but not
in the initial CTP.
"It was a surprise to me that they labeled it Windows," said one
developer who works for a Fortune 100 tech company. "It wasn't Microsoft
Azure, it was Windows Azure. I see this as a direct competitor to Google Code
to some extent and obviously Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.
"When you think of it, it is physical but I can't see how people can shift
their trend reports from the service architecture to the cloud," he continued.
"[Microsoft has] shown a Web site that says here's how you run this thing,
but we haven't seen a lot of the application lifecycle. So there is a promise
and it is very easy to get in, but what happens since then?"
Many developers had questions about more advanced functionality and Azure's
usage in production environments today despite its status as an early preview.
"Will I be able to run Windows Azure in my datacenter?" one attendee
asked. The answer is no, according to Manuvir Das, director of the Azure platform
at Microsoft, who said he could not comment on whether that will change.
Microsoft will be unlocking access to new capabilities in the coming months.
The Azure and Azure Services Platform roadmap will be determined in part by
developer feedback, the company said. Microsoft will not charge developers during
the technical previews, although there is a quota for service usage. The business
model for the commercial product, expected in the 2009 calendar year, will be
based on applications' resource consumption and service-level agreements.
Kathleen Richards is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.