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Microsoft: No Slowing Down Cloud Freight Train

At Microsoft's TechEd conference, executives are drilling home the message that Windows Azure is ready for prime time and urging developers to build business apps in the cloud.

The cloud-as-mantra message dominated day one of Microsoft's TechEd conference in New Orleans on Monday, and Windows Azure took center stage. Microsoft released an updated Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) that supports .NET Framework 4, Visual Studio 2010 RTM, and IntelliTrace bug tracking.

Microsoft, which launched Windows Azure as a paid service in February, now has "thousands of active users" running on the platform, Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools division, told the roughly 8000 attendees who packed into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Windows Azure, which brings together a cloud-based operating system, relational database and associated services, can help developers get apps to market in fraction of time that it would take to build and run the in the traditional way, according to Muglia.

"We're off to a great start on this platform but it's really just the beginning," he said.

Azure now supports 50 GB of storage on SQL Azure and comes with Datasync, which keeps devices synchronized with Azure, as well as spatial data support in Bing Maps that's part of a new SDK released Monday.

Microsoft also released Windows Server App Fabric to manufacturing, which allows for development of composite applications that include on-premise and cloud-based elements, and is available free to existing Windows Server customers. By year's end, Microsoft's System Center will be extended to manage cloud instances, Muglia said.

Muglia also revealed that Service Pack 1 for both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 will be available in July. SP1 adds two new virtualization features to Server 2008 R2: Hyper-V dynamic memory allocation and VDI Remote FX, which offers an HD quality remote experience in virtualized instances and comes from Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Calista Technologies.

Muglia reminded the audience that the centerpiece of Microsoft's cloud vision is the server. Microsoft has gained much experience from building cloud scale data centers for Bing and MSN and it's using that knowledge in its multi-faceted cloud strategy.

"Clouds will run and be built in multiple places," Muglia said in the keynote. "There will be do-it-yourself clouds, public clouds, private clouds, and Azure. We think there should be one model and one platform across all these, so that the tooling model is leveraged."

Microsoft sees hosting partners becoming more important as the cloud becomes more predominant. "The partner piece of this is incredibly important," Muglia said.

Partners have also been an important part of Microsoft's Online Services, which now have more than 40 million paying customers, Muglia said. "People are moving to the cloud at a very rapid pace," he said.

Microsoft isn't just planning on moving its existing applications to the cloud, it's also developing new ones. Muglia said Windows Intune, the cloud-based desktop management service Microsoft launched as a beta in April, and which features inventory management, patching and antimalware, is an example of a new type of cloud service.

"We think in the long run this is going to be very interesting for businesses of all sizes," Muglia said. "We're now seeing new cloud services, and desktop management is a new opportunity in the cloud."

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