Hot Azure News from PDC 10!

This week at PDC we announced a tremendous number of new Windows Azure Platform features and functionality particularly focused on better support for everyone from the smallest ISV to the largest enterprise.

All in all over 75% of Steve Ballmer's Keynote presentation was devoted to Windows Azure. This is just an indication of the importance of “The Cloud” and what it means for us to be “All In”.


This release of the Windows Azure Platform is the third major platform release and continues the “Move and/or Enhance existing applications” theme that Microsoft has been stressing since it was first announced back in 2008.

Warning: Some of these features are available now, some are in Community Technical Preview and some are in Beta. You will need to look at the PDC sessions referenced below and/or review other roadmap information that will become available shortly to find out about the availability of specific features.

There are links from each topic to more information on these features, and each topic addresses why the feature is important to you.

Cloud Essentials for Partners : To encourage Microsoft Partners to build and/or move their software and services to the cloud the new Cloud Essentials Pack will offer a large number of benefits on a monthly basis.

Some of these benefits include: 750 hours of Extra Small Windows Azure compute instances (see below), 25 hours of Small compute instances, 3GB of storage, 250,000 storage transactions, A 1GB SQL Azure Web Edition database, and more.

It also includes Microsoft’s other cloud offerings including Office 365 (the new name for BPOS), Windows In-Tune, and CRM Online.  It is available to all partners that are enrolled in the Microsoft Partner Network and have had their Windows Azure platform application profiled in the Microsoft Platform Ready program. Beginning on January 7th. Partners can sign up for it at the link above.

Web Role enhancements: We now have full IIS installed in a web role as opposed to the previous use of the Hosted Web Core subset. The importance of this is that you can now host multiple web sites in a single web role. This feature also gives you access to features of IIS to support video and audio streaming applications.

VM Role: It’s not Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) but it does combine the best of IaaS and PaaS (Platform as a Service). ISVs and SIs can leverage the VMRole as a transition tool to be used in moving an existing application to the cloud.

Elevated Privileges (Admin Mode): Like the VM Role, but less demanding, this feature will help you port an existing application to Windows Azure. If you have been stymied by the inability to port an application that used COM components or other DLLs that must be installed by updating the system registry then Admin Mode should be of particular interest to you.

Remote Desktop: Ever want to take a peek into your Web and Worker roles running in Windows Azure to find out exactly what is going on in there? This feature allows you to Remote Desktop in the same way that you can do to your own on-premise Windows servers.

Extra Small Role Instances: This is a Subset of the existing Small role size that is priced even lower. This role size provides you with a cost-effective training and development environment, the ability to prototype cloud solutions at a lower cost, and a way to experiment in the cloud before running your service at full scale

Windows Azure AppFabric: Many existing capabilities have been enhanced and new ones added. In fact the whole structure of AppFabric has changed significantly to make it easier to build hybrid on-premise/in cloud applications. It now consists of the following components:

Caching: This is a new addition to Windows Azure AppFabric. To the existing Windows Azure AppFabric components of Access Control Service (ACS) and Service Bus we have added a Caching as a Service offering (CaaS?) based on the same Velocity caching engine that exists in Windows Server AppFabric. This is one more example of how our on-premise and cloud based features are converging so that you can offer your customers a choice of how to acquire and pay you for your application.

Service Bus: The Microsoft implementation that I like to call the “Internet Service Bus” has added durable messaging, load balancing for services and an administration protocol to it’s existing Service Remoting and Protocol Tunneling features.

Access Control Service has also added support for additional security providers such as Facebook, Google, Active Directly and systems that use the OAuth security protocol.

Connect (Sidney): This VPN based feature allows the integration of your Windows Azure applications and data with your customer’s internal networks in a secure and safe manner.

Integration Services: This new feature will provide common BizTalk Server integration capabilities (e.g. pipeline, transforms, adapters) on Windows Azure, using out-of-box integration patterns to accelerate and simplify development. It will also deliver higher level business user enablement capabilities such as Business Activity Monitoring and Rules, as well as a self-service trading partner community portal and provisioning of business-to-business pipelines.

Composite Application Services, the .NET Composition Model and Tools (Dublin): At PDC we announced a new overarching multi-tenant, managed middleware service which consumes the .NET based Composition Model definition and automates the deployment and management of the end-to-end application. This is a major new addition and worthy of further consideration especially if you are building applications that are composed of multiple services that have to be integrated and orchestrated together. AppFabric also manages the lifetime and scaling of Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) workloads as well, since workflows in AppFabric are also services.

Although we have listed this feature last in fact it is the main overarching component of Windows Azure AppFabric that ties the entire middleware architecture together.

Taken together these new services take Windows Azure AppFabric beyond the scope of providing cloud connectivity and start to fulfill the vision of a comprehensive cloud middleware platform for developing, deploying and managing applications on the Windows Azure Platform. It also continues the march toward Windows Server Platform and Windows Azure Platform compatibility and integration.

SQL Azure: SQL Azure continues to add support for more of the features of a full implementation of SQL Server running in the cloud. This will help you to move your SQL Server based product to Windows Azure more easily.


Database Manager for SQL Azure (Houston): This is a Silverlight based lightweight tool for managing SQL Azure databases.

SQL Azure Reporting Services: Reporting services has been an often requested feature for SQL Azure. At PDC we announced the addition of this feature to SQL Azure. The Reporting as a Service (RaaS) feature is described in detail at the link above.

SQL Azure Sync Services: adds on-premise SQL Servers to the existing support for synchronizing SQL Azure databases. Excellent for on-ramping data and synchronizing multiple copies of on-premise and in-cloud databases.

Content Delivery Network: With over 18 worldwide edge network locations the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) can be used to optimize data retrieval performance by putting Windows Azure storage items close to where it is to be accessed.

Windows Azure MarketPlace: This isan online marketplace for developers and IT Professionals to share, find, buy and sell: building block components, training, services, finished services and applications. It also includes a Data Market (Dallas), our Data a a Service (DaaS?) offering which is launching with over 40+ data suppliers. It also includes a new Excel add-in so that Excel can access Data Market data directly.

New Portal Experience: At PDC we unveiled unveiled a new Silverlight based Windows Azure (development) portal, simpler sign-up process and scenario based forums.

Hosted TFS: From the smallest ISV to the largest enterprise organization Team Foundation Server has proved to be an outstanding on-premise development environment. We are working on providing Hosted TFS (TFSaaS?). This will be a cloud based Application Life Cycle Management system that is compatible with the on-premise version but that that can be used in the cloud on a pay-as-you-go basis by you and your customers. Existing on-premise TFS will also be enhanced to work more closely with hosted TFS.  The move of the existing TFS product to Windows Azure is also a great case study on moving a large on-premise application to the cloud.

SCOM integration (Windows Azure Management Pack): This feature supports: Discovery of Windows Azure applications, Determining the status of each role instance, Collecting and monitoring performance information, Collecting and monitoring Windows event data, Collecting and monitoring .NET Framework trace messages from each role instance, Grooming of performance; event; and .NET Framework trace data from Windows Azure storage account, and the ability to Change the number of active role instances.

App-V: This feature will allow customers to deploy multi-tier, enterprise applications on on-premises Server App-V and then upload them to Azure, just like virtual machines. The difference is that, in this specific scenario, customers won’t be obliged to build a complete VM.

Windows Azure Tools for Eclipse/Java: This is an open source project sponsored by Microsoft, and developed and released by a partner, Soyatec, an international software company and Eclipse solution provider. These tools allow Java developers to build and test Java applications and deploy them directly to Windows Azure.

For more information on these and a host of other new features all of the keynote and breakout sessions are available for download.

Bill Zack

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