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PDC: Windows Azure Goes Live

As expected, Microsoft rolled out its cloud computing vision during the opening keynote of PDC 2008 this morning, and I have to say, there were surprisingly few, um, surprises.

Don't get me wrong -- the services-based cloud operating system known formerly as "Project Red Dog" isn't a small deal. Far from it, the ultimate scope of Windows Azure should dwarf that of Microsoft's latest client OS launch in Vista. This is a play for the entire Web, from hosted enterprise applications and services to hobbyist stuff running over the wire.

Azure is Microsoft's ground-up, services-based foundation for cloud-based applications and infrastructures. As Kathleen Richards reports for Redmond Developer News, Azure provides an abstracted environment for deploying and managing highly scalable and available cloud-based applications.

Azure represents a sea change for Microsoft, a company that has famously struggled to come to terms with the very concept of services-based computing. Remember when Microsoft wouldn't even say the term SOA?

That era is over. Big time. Services will be a strategic focus in Redmond for the foreseeable future. From Windows to .NET Framework to SQL Server, SharePoint and Dynamics CRM, every corner of Microsoft's enterprise portfolio is going service-based. Microsoft even discussed an upcoming portal for Microsoft's System Center product, called "Atlanta," that leverages Azure to provide analysis and presentation of the status of on-premise infrastructure.

Despite all that, it was notable how closely Microsoft stayed to its tried and proven playbook.

Windows brand and platform leverage? Check. From the Azure name to the integration of the Hyper-V hypervisor virtualization, Microsoft went to great lengths to deeply brand Windows into this cloud platform.

Visual Studio and .NET integration? Check. Amitabh Srivastava's "Hello PDC" demo showed how Azure cloud-based applications could be written using the familiar ASP.NET in Visual Studio. Throughout the presentation, attendees were pitched on the benefits of familiar tooling and languages.

XML foundations? Check. Cloud models are built in XML, which enables all sorts of extensibility scenarios.

Questionable support for non-preferred Microsoft technologies? Oh, yes -- check. Support in Azure for unmanaged native code, Amitabh let slip late, will come later. There's certainly an openness and interoperability message, but it's hardly surprising that the early work will be happening inside the Microsoft toolshed.

While the direction Microsoft took here may not be a surprise, it's clear that the company is taking the long bet. PDC 2008 may be remembered as the pivot point, when Microsoft moved past the tension that's been building between shrink wrap and services. The bet is on. The infrastructure is being deployed and the tools are being mobilized.

Did you see the keynote? What are your thoughts on Windows Azure? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/27/2008

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