updated 08:00 pm EDT, Mon October 27, 2008
Microsoft Azure platform
Microsoft has introduced Windows Azure, the foundation to its cloud-computing architecture that will allow companies to create software and services that can be accessed from centralized data centers. The platform will directly compete with similar ventures from competitors, including Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Google's library of internet tools. Developers can create applications that exist "in the cloud," accessible from anywhere in the world. The release marks a transition for Microsoft from the reliance on desktop software and further into the realm of Web-based technologies.
The key component of the architecture will be Windows Azure, an operating system that is designed for the cloud environment, providing developers a way to manage their Web applications on the Internet through the data centers. For some businesses that are facing the costs of building and maintaining on-site systems, using Azure-based cloud services on a subscription basis could present another option. The primary storage, computing, and networking tools would be hosted in Microsoft's data centers.
The Azure Services Platform will bring together several of the company's developer services including SQL, .NET, Live, SharePoint, and Dynamics CRM. Applications can be created using the .NET framework, Visual Studio, or other technologies and open source standards such as Eclipse, Ruby, PHP, Python, XML, HTTP, representational state transfer (REST), and Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub).
Customers can integrate any existing systems with Azure, spreading the applications across both platforms to suit particular needs. Some potential clients could steer clear of Web-based technology because of concerns with potential down-time. Microsoft claims its Azure Fabric Controller technology is designed to distribute the workload evenly across servers, while instantly rerouting work in the event of a failure.
Microsoft is aiming to jump into the Web-based software-as-a-service segment and take market share from power-players such as Google. As the sales of Vista stagnate, showing just a two percent income growth for the recent quarter, the company could be looking to extend its reach, with products such as Azure, into new areas that could be more profitable in the near future.