Ozzie Shows Off Windows Azure Advancements


Since launching the Azure community technology preview at last year's PDC, developers have shown strong interest in Microsoft's cloud computing platform, Ozzie told a gathering of around 500 developers at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "Tens of thousands of developers are actively participating in the CTP," Ozzie said.

Ozzie's keynote focused on the back-end improvements and tooling support Microsoft has built into Azure. One key area of progress is SQL Azure, which in the past year has been transformed into a true database-as-a-service that lets customers tap into the efficiencies of cloud computing, Ozzie said.

SQL Azure requires no physical administration and customers can create databases on an as-needed basis, and disaster recovery is handled on Microsoft's end, he added.

"Windows Azure is a cloud computing operating environment designed to manage extremely large pools of computational resources. It's a cloud OS designed for the future, but made for today," said Ozzie.

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Microsoft on Tuesday launched a CTP of a subsystem within Azure, code-named Dallas, "an open catalog and marketplace for public and commercial data," as Ozzie described it. By creating a uniform discovery mechanism for data -- which Microsoft calls "delivering data-as-a-service" -- and enabling this data to be incorporated into applications, Dallas will demonstrate the cloud's potential for unlocking data sources, Ozzie said.

"Innovation in the realm of public data is a huge opportunity, but it's still out of reach for many," Ozzie said. "Online catalogs and marketplaces are not just about applications, but also around popular and useful data."

Vivek Kundra, the U.S. Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), made a video appearance at PDC to explain how the government can take advantage of this technology. "When government decides to democratize data, innovation happens," Kundra said, noting the advances in GPS that followed the Department Of Defense's removal of restrictions on the technology.

The U.S. government has some 100,000 data sets and has made it a priority to find ways to intersect various data sets, Kundra said. One example is the Career Finder app for iPhone, which takes Department Of Labor data to help job hunters identify opportunities. "We want to create apps more quickly and shift focus within the federal government to service delivery," Kundra said.

Microsoft Pinpoint, launched Tuesday on the Azure development portal and the Microsoft Partner Network, will serve as the mechanism for accessing this data. "It's difficult for me to overstate the importance of these portals," Ozzie told attendees.

Microsoft has included Azure templates in Visual Studio 2010, which makes it easier to move code between cloud and non-cloud apps. In addition, Microsoft has introduced expanded virtual machine support to make it easier for customers to leverage their existing application investments in the cloud, something that has been a concern in some IT industry circles.

Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server And Tools division, discussed Project Sydney, the code name for a beta Microsoft plans to launch sometime next year that directly and securely connects applications running on premise with applications that run in the public cloud environment.

Microsoft next year will also launch a new virtual machine role type that includes preconfigured Windows Server images and will make it possible for a wide range of Windows applications to run in Windows Azure, Muglia said.

While this year's PDC contained less sizzle than last year's event, developers were buzzing during after the event, and conference attendees seemed plenty satisfied with the progress Microsoft has made.

Ozzie, in reference to Microsoft's Online Services and Azure, could hardly contain his excitement. "These really are the early days, there is so much potential," Ozzie said. "These services are ready for business now and they are foundation of everything we do."