New Azure, Visual Studio Development Tools On Tap From Microsoft

Windows 8

Microsoft Wednesday also unveiled a developer preview of Windows Server 8, the next generation of the company's flagship server software, with a range of enhancements for delivering cloud applications.

"This is a huge opportunity for all you developers to lead the way with this transformation," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, outlining in his Wednesday morning keynote Microsoft's plans to develop Windows to run on a broad range of data center, desktop and mobile devices -- what the company calls "continuous services."

Microsoft debuted Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview, an early version of the next release of the development tool set that programmers can use to build applications in the Windows 8 "Metro" style using HTML 5, JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic and C++.

The toolset also offers a number of enhancements for code analysis, code review, agile testing, project compatibility, extension management and game development. The preview release is available now for Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers and will be generally available Friday.

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Nadella also unveiled a developer preview of Microsoft .NET 4.5 with new features for asynchronous programming in C# and Visual Basic; a preview of Team Foundation Service, Microsoft's software for collaborative software development, running on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform; and a preview of ASP.NET MVC 4 with new capabilities for managing Web application rendering.

Nadella and other Microsoft executives also demonstrated planned additions to Azure to aid developers, including the new Windows Azure SDK (software developer kit) 1.5. Also new is the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 for developing Metro-style applications that use Azure for connectivity and notifications.

The improvements in Windows Server 8 (the product's code name -- the current release is Windows Server 2008 R2) go beyond virtualization to make the server a better platform for building private cloud systems. The software supports a multi-tenant architecture for running cloud applications and offers enhancements for reducing high-availability costs and automating service management.

"This is a major release for us. It is our most cloud-optimized system," Nadella said.

Microsoft is making the Windows Server 8 developer preview release available immediately to MSDN subscribers. The CRN Test Center has put together a slide show of the 17 best new features of Windows Server 8.