Microsoft integrates three cloud services into a new unified Azure app-development service

Microsoft is combining Azure Websites, Mobile Services and BizTalk Services into a new bundle for developers building all kinds of cross-platform apps.

Microsoft is combining three of its Azure services into a new unified service it's calling Azure App Service, company officials said on March 24.

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Azure App Service integrates Azure Websites (now known as Web Apps), Azure Mobile Services and BizTalk Services. The new unified service has a common app-hosting, runtime and extensibility model.

The new unified offering is targeted at developers interested in building Web apps, mobile apps, business apps and API apps (built using publicly available programming interfaces). Azure App Service can be used to build apps that run on any device, any platform and with tools of developers' own choice, according to Microsoft execs.

Microsoft is bundling these three Azure services together so as to offer developers cost savings and greater convenience. The goal of the new combined service is similar to the goal Microsoft has with its Windows 10 universal app platform: To allow developers to develop an app once and deliver it across a variety of platforms (though, in Azure's case, not just Windows platforms). Instead of requiring developers to write two different versions of the same app for Web and mobile, Microsoft's new Azure App Service bundle will let devs create a single app.

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Azure App Service will cost the same as what Azure Websites costs as a standalone service today, officials said. Eventually (I'm not sure when), Azure Websites, Mobile Services and BizTalk Services will only be available as part of the new bundle, and not as standalone individual services, but customers will have the option of using just one, two or all three of the services in the bundle.

With Azure App Service, developers will be able to write applications that run on Azure only. However, they can integrate data from any cloud, not just Microsoft's, as well as with data residing in on-premises servers from Microsoft or other vendors.

Microsoft will provide more specifics on the Azure App Service during a Webcast starting at 11 am PT/2 pm ET today, March 24.

Update: Microsoft also announced a new Azure for Student Developers program today, which provides high school and university students with free access to Azure services, no credit card required.

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