The cloud again held center stage at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference in Redmond yesterday, as company executives demonstrated new technologies to enhance its Platform-as-a-Service and mobile offerings.
The company released a detailed road map for the future of Windows Azure, its operating system for the cloud, including tools for developers, data connectivity and virtualization.
Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, told PDC attendees, “Imagine having all of the IT infrastructure, hardware, OS and tools you need to support an app just a few mouse clicks away. It opens up so many possibilities for developers worldwide. We are looking forward to seeing the amazing things our customers will build on our PaaS offering.”
Muglia announced Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role and Server Application Virtualization, designed to push developers toward the cloud. The first technology offers an instance of Windows Server 2008 R2 running in Microsoft’s cloud, for developers to test and move their applications to the cloud. The latter helps developers transfer application images to Azure, tapping into the platform’s management capabilities, Muglia explained.
A public beta of Virtual Machine Role will be available by the end of this year, the company said, while Server Application Virtualization will be available as a community technology preview by the end of this year. The final release of Server Application Virtualization is set for the second half of 2011.
The company also announced new Azure middleware services to help developers create rich cloud applications. Windows Azure AppFabric Composition Model gives developers application deployment and management capabilities designed to speed up the assembly of services into fully functional applications, and Windows Azure Marketplace—including DataMarket (formerly “Project Dallas”)—features more than 35 providers offering data subscriptions for demographic, financial, mapping and entertainment data, the company said.
AppFabric Composition Model, which gives developers extensions to the .NET Framework and offers a Visual Studio-based designer experience, will be available in the first half of 2011. A feature called AppFabric Composite App Service enables developers to take the Composition Model and automate application deployment, configuration, control, monitoring, reporting and optimization. A CTP of that feature is also due in the first half of 2011.
Enhancements of the Azure platform itself include a redesigned Silverlight-based portal to improve the user experience, access to new diagnostic information, a new process that reduces the steps to sign up for Azure, and forums for sharing knowledge and finding answers to questions.
Major changes to SQL Azure, the company’s cloud-based relational database service, also were announced. A new component called SQL Azure Reporting enables developers to build reports and rich data visualizations into their applications that can export to Word, Excel and PDF. And SQL Azure Data Sync gives developers the ability to build applications with “geo-replicated SQL Azure data” that sync on-premise with cloud and mobile applications, according to the company. These components are set to be released in the first half of 2011.
Meanwhile, Database Manager for SQL Azure, a Web-based data management and querying component formerly known as “Project Houston,” will be generally available by the end of 2010.
Microsoft also demonstrated Team Foundation Server on Windows Azure, showing its efforts to bring application life-cycle management tools into the hosted environment. A CTP of TFS on Windows Azure is expected to be available sometime next year.