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Microsoft Rolls Out Services Connector CTP

Microsoft has introduced a new Windows server component to seamlessly connect Active Directory users to Microsoft-based services and other services residing in the Internet cloud. The new Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of the Microsoft Services Connector application aims to connect users without compromising corporate security or user identity.

During last week's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Lynn Ayres, program manager of identity services at Microsoft, described the Microsoft Services Connector as "a services complement … that a business installs on premises with their existing IT infrastructure."

The application is being offered as a "free tool that greatly simplifies on-boarding to cloud services," Ayres said, including those running on the newly announced Windows Azure Internet cloud platform.

Microsoft is addressing the needs of businesses moving from internal server products to hosted Web services, without sacrificing their control over a corporate intranet or scrapping existing IT infrastructure, Ayres said.

"Our challenge is how to bridge from the business's IT infrastructure into the cloud" with a solution that "needs to be easy" for IT administrators to set up and manage, she said. Once the IT managers are satisfied that the solution will play nicely on the corporate intranet, it must work for employees wanting a familiar "look and feel" in their applications, she added.

The final piece of the equation is to make it easy for developers to offer hosted services to businesses.

Microsoft has developed multiple parts to the solution, including the Microsoft Federation Gateway. This component runs in the cloud and acts as a hub to an identify federation connection sitting "between the business and all the services that the business wants to access," Ayres said. The Federation Gateway "brokers a connection for [Microsoft] services and developer services that are built using the Azure services platform," she explained.

Unlike a typical one-to-one federation connection, this gateway enables a single connection to multiple services, she said.

The Microsoft Services Connector CTP is part Microsoft's overall cloud computing initiatives centered on Windows Azure. Ayres contends that moving apps to the cloud reduces the burdens of IT admins in "hosting and scaling" applications built by developers.

The CTP of Microsoft Services Connector can be downloaded here. A beta release is planned for early 2009.

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.

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