Microsoft is continuing to lay the groundwork for the commercial version of its Azure cloud environement, rolling out a new content delivery network (CDN) capability, as well as the November update to its Azure developer services.
On November 5, Microsoft delivered the November Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of its Service Bus and Access Control Service -- both of which are feature-complete. Those two elements are known as .Net Services. (Workflow services, queuing and routers also originally were set to be part of the first .Net Services release, but the team decided to pull those components in order to sync with Microsoft's .Net 4.0 release, due out in March, 2010.)
Microsoft also rolled out on November 5 a new CDN capability that extends the storage piece of the Windows Azure cloud operating system.
(A quick refresher: Windows Azure, codenamed "Red Dog" is what networks and manages the set of Windows Server 2008 machines that comprise the Microsoft-hosted cloud. At the highest level, Red Dog consists of four “pillars”: Storage (like a file system); the “fabric controller,” which is a management system for modeling/deploying and provisioning; virtualized computation/VM; and a development environment, which allows developers to emulate Red Dog on their desktops and plug in Visual Studio, Eclipse or other tools to write cloud apps against it. Azure services including .Net Services and SQL Azure sit on top of the Windows Azure operating system)
The new Windows Azure CDN is designed to allow developers to deliver high-bandwidth content more quickly and efficiently. Here are more details from a November 5 blog post by Brad Calder, who is a leader of the Windows Azure Storage team:
"Windows Azure CDN has 18 locations globally (United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America) and continues to expand. Windows Azure CDN caches your Windows Azure blobs at strategically placed locations to provide maximum bandwidth for delivering your content to users. You can enable CDN delivery for any storage account via the Windows Azure Developer Portal. The CDN provides edge delivery only to blobs that are in public blob containers, which are available for anonymous access.
"The benefit of using a CDN is better performance and user experience for users who are farther from the source of the content stored in the Windows Azure Blob service. In addition, Windows Azure CDN provides worldwide high-bandwidth access to serve content for popular events."
For the remaining CTP period, Windows Azure CDN access will remain free to testers. (Pricing information isn't yet available.) Microsoft is recommending caching blobs less than 10 GB in size for best performance.
Speaking of the remaining CTP period, while Microsoft officials have said for the past few months that they planned to remove the beta tag from Azure at the Professional Developers Conference in mid-November, Microsoft isn't closing the CTP until the end of December. Developers and customers won't be charged for Azure until February, 2010.