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During a keynote speech at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC2008), Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Corp.’s chief software architect, announced Windows Azure, the cloud-based service foundation underlying its Azure Services Platform, and highlighted this platform’s role in delivering a software plus services approach to computing.

“Today marks a turning point for Microsoft and the development community. We have introduced a game-changing set of technologies that will bring new opportunities to Web developers and business developers alike. The Azure Services Platform, built from the ground up to be consistent with Microsoft’s commitment to openness and interoperability, promises to transform the way businesses operate and how consumers access their information and experience the Web,” said Mr. Ozzie.

The Azure Services Platform is a move by Microsoft to help developers build the next generation of applications that will span from the cloud to the enterprise datacenter and deliver compelling new experiences across the PC, Web and phone.

“Most important, it gives our customers the power of choice to deploy applications in cloud-based Internet services or through on-premises servers, or to combine them in any way that makes the most sense for the needs of their business,” Mr. Ozzie added.

Ozzie described how this platform combines cloud-based developer capabilities with storage, computational and networking infrastructure services, all hosted on servers operating within Microsoft’s global datacenter network. This provides developers with the ability to deploy applications in the cloud or on-premises and enables experiences across a broad range of business and consumer scenarios. A limited community technology preview (CTP) of the Azure Services Platform was initially made available to developers in attendance at PDC2008, giving them a chance to try out its features and functions and plan for their own future development.

Unlike many of today’s service-based solutions, the Azure Services Platform provides developers with the flexibility and ability to create applications while taking advantage of their existing skills, tools and technologies such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio. Developers also can choose from a broad range of commercial or open source development tools and technologies, and access the Azure Services Platform using a variety of common Internet standards including HTTP, representational state transfer (REST), WS-* and Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub).

Key components of the Azure Services Platform include the following:

  • Windows Azure for service hosting and management, low-level scalable storage, computation and networking.
  • Microsoft SQL Services for a wide range of database services and reporting.
  • Microsoft .NET Services which are service-based implementations of familiar .NET Framework concepts such as workflow and access control.
  • Live Services for a consistent way for users to store, share and synchronize documents, photos, files and information across their PCs, phones, PC applications and Web sites.
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for business content, collaboration and rapid solution development in the cloud

Services technologies, when employed alongside other core technology enablers such as virtualization and modeling, will result in dramatic benefits for customers’ IT departments. Specifically, these technologies will enable a new and more dynamic world, where IT departments can drive down operating costs, focus their spending on systems that differentiate the business, and ultimately enable IT to become a more strategic asset, Microsoft explained.

Microsoft’s service offerings also include Microsoft Online Services. These solutions deliver enterprise-class software as a subscription service, hosted by Microsoft and sold through partners. Microsoft services applications, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting can be used as a complement to or in addition to on-premises software, enabling the power of choice depending on a customer’s IT strategy.

Tags: Microsoft, Windows, Azure

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