Microsoft delivers Windows Azure Platform updates

As previously announced at PDC 2010, Microsoft is now delivering updates to the Windows Azure platform to further enable Platform as a service (PaaS), where developers and business will ultimately see the true value of the cloud. Today, Microsoft is delivering:

To make it easier to move existing applications and run them more efficiently, Microsoft is providing a bridge to PaaS from IaaS.

  • Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role beta eases the migration of existing Windows Server 2008 R2 applications to Windows Azure by eliminating the need to make costly application changes and enable customers to quickly access their existing business data from the cloud.

To enhance applications and workloads with rich new services and features.

  • Database Manager for SQL Azure General Availability: Database Manager for SQL Azureis a lightweight, Web-based database management and querying capability for SQL Azure. This capability was formerly referred to as “Project Houston,” and allows customers to have a streamlined experience within the Web browser without having to download any tools.
  • Windows Azure Marketplace beta: The Windows Azure Marketplaceis a single online marketplace for developers and IT professionals to share, find, buy and sell building block components, training, services, and finished services or applications needed to build complete and compelling Windows Azure platform applications. Developers and ISVs will find that the Marketplace is an ideal way to monetize and publicize their offerings to cloud customers, and customers will find that the Marketplace offers an array of technologies they can purchase and use in one stop.

The first “aisle” in the Windows Azure Marketplace is DataMarket, which provides developers and information workers with access to premium third-party data, Web services, and self-service business intelligence and analytics, which they can use to build rich applications. DataMarket was released to web at PDC 2010 and is currently available.

  • Windows Azure Virtual Network Connect CTP: The first Windows Azure Virtual Network feature is called Windows Azure Connect.Windows Azure Connect enables a simple and easy-to-manage mechanism to set up IP-based network connectivity between on-premises and Windows Azure resources.
  • Extra Small Windows Azure Instance beta: The Extra Small Instance, which is priced at $0.05 per computehour in order to make the process of development, testing and trial easier for developers. This will make it affordable for developers interested in running smaller applications on the platform.
  • Remote Desktop General Availability: Remote Desktopenables IT professionals to connect to a running instance of their application or service to monitor activity and troubleshoot common problems.
  • Elevated Privileges General Availability: The VM role and Elevated Privileges functionality removes roadblocks that today prevent developers from having full control over their application environment. For small changes such as configuring Internet Information Service (IIS) or installing a Microsoft Software Installer (MSI), Microsoft recommends using the Elevated Privileges admin access feature. This approach is best suited for small changes and enables the developer to retain automated service management at the Guest OS and the application level.
  • Full IIS Support General Availability: enables development of more complete applications using Windows Azure. Full IIS functionality, enables multiple IIS sites per Web role and the ability to install IIS modules. The full IIS functionality enables developers to get more value out of a Windows Azure instance.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Roles General Availability: Windows Azure will now support Windows Server 2008 R2 in its Web, worker and VM roles. This new support will enable customers to take advantage of the full range of Windows Server 2008 R2 features such as IIS 7.5, AppLocker, and enhanced command-line and automated management using PowerShell Version 2.0.
  • Multiple Admins General Availability: Windows Azure now supports multiple Windows Live IDs to have administrator privileges on the same Windows Azure account. The objective is to make it easy for a team to work on the same Windows Azure account while using their individual Windows Live IDs.

To transform applications to do new things in new ways, which are highly scalable and highly available.

  • Windows Azure Enhancements General Availability: While developers and IT professionals appreciate the reduced management burden that Windows Azure offers, they also place a high value on retaining the flexibility to see and control how their applications and services are running in the cloud. Developers and IT professionals need clear visibility into their cloud applications, along with a high level of control over how these applications are running.

To address these needs, Microsoft is delivering the following developer and operator enhancements:

  • A completely redesigned Microsoft Silverlight-based Windows Azure portal to ensure an improved and intuitive user experience
  • Access to new diagnostic information including the ability to click on a role to see type and deployment time
  • A new sign-up process that dramatically reduces the number of steps needed to sign up for Windows Azure
  • New scenario-based Windows Azure Platform forums to help answer questions and share knowledge more efficiently

For more information, visit the Windows Azure blog , or attend this overview webcast that’s happening on Wednesday, December 1st at 9AM. All of these new features can be found at the new Windows Azure Management Portal and through downloading the Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio release 1.3