Any Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) wouldn't be complete without a few new codenames. On November 17, Microsoft introduced three new ones that all are related to Microsoft's evolving cloud-computing vision and infrastructure.
During the Day One set of keynotes, Microsoft officials attempted to explain further how the company's three-screens-and-a-cloud vision will take shape in product and service form.
Last year, when it rolled out its first Windows Azure Community Technology Preview, Microsoft showed a "layer cake" type diagram which showed all of the various Azure layers and components as a comprehensive whole. (See last year's layer cake above.)
This year, there was no diagram. The new message is that Microsoft's cloud is comprised of Windows Azure (the Red Dog operating system), SQL Azure and a new AppFabric development platform. That's it. Gone are the Live Services, .Net Services, SharePoint Services, and Dynamics CRM Services that wer all part of the original platform.
Did Microsoft decide its original vision was too ambitious? It seems more the case that it has decided some of the original pieces didn't belong as part of the core Azure platform, such as Live Services, which are now part of Windows/Windows Live. In other cases, Microsoft has repackaged other elements of its original platform in different ways (example: the slimmed-down .Net Services is now part of AppFabric).
In the midst of all this movement, Microsoft introduced the three new cloud-related codenames today. How do they fit into Microsoft's newly flattened cloud cake?
* Project Sydney: Technology that enables customers to connect securely their on-premises and cloud servers. Some of the underlying technologies that are enabling it include IPSec, IPV6 and Microsoft's Geneva federated-identity capability. It could be used for a variety of applications, such as allowing developers to fail over cloud apps to on-premises servers or to run an app that is structured to run on both on-premises and cloud servers, for example. Sydney is slated to go to beta early next year and go final in 2010.
* Dallas: Microsoft's "data-as-a-service" offering. Dallas is a new service built on top of Windows Azure and SQL Azure that will provide users with access to free and paid collections of public and commercial data sets that they can use in developing applications. The datasets are available via Microsoft's PinPoint partner/ISV site. Dallas is hosted on Azure already and is available as of today as an invitation-only CTP. No word on when Microsoft is hoping to release the final version of the service.
* AppFabric: AppFabric is a collection of existing Azure developer components, including the "Dublin" app server, "Velocity" caching technology, and .Net Services (the service bus and access control services). The version of the Windows Server AppFabric on-premises version of the product is available for download today, with final availability slated for 2010. Community Technology Previews (CTPs) of the Windows Azure AppFabric version are slated to be available during 2010. No word on when the final Azure-based version will be out. (Note: The CTPs of the Access Control and Service Bus technologies are still available separately in CTP form today.)
Microsoft made available last week a November release of its own Windows Azure SDK and related tools. The new releases include an update to Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio, which extends VS 2008 and VS2010 Beta 2 so they can create, configure, build, debug and run Web apps and services on Windows Azure.
Roger Jennings, a cloud computing expert and author of the Oakleaf Systems blog said that the November release of the Windows Azure SDK includes "something Azure devs have been asking for and needed to compete with AWS EC2 (Amazon Web Services' Elastic Cloud 2): Variable-size virtual machines (VMs). Using that featue, Azure developers may now specify the size of the virtual machine to which they wish to deploy a role instance, based on the role's resource requirements. The size of the VM determines the number of CPU cores, the memory capacity, and the local file system size allocated to a running instance, Jennings noted.
In a similar vein, Amazon quietly released on November 11 version 1.0 of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) software development kit for .Net. The SDK allows developers to "get started in minutes with a single, downloadable package complete with VIsual Studio project templates, the AWS .Net library, C# code samples and documentation," according to a note Amazon forwarded me over the weekend.