Last year, Microsoft took the wraps off a lot of of new Windows Azure services. This year, many of those services are at last going from "preview" to "general availability."
On April 8, Microsoft officials announced that Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) is now generally available and ready for production use.
WAAD is Microsoft's cloud implementation of its Windows Active Directory directory service. A number of Microsoft cloud properties already are using WAAD, including the Windows Azure Online Backup, Windows Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows InTune.
Officials made the WAAD general-availability (GA) announcement on the opening day of the annual Microsoft Management Summit (MMS).
Next up -- I'm hearing possibly as early as the week of April 15 -- Microsoft may announce the general availability of the persistent Windows Server and Linux virtual machines which the company announced last year. These VMs allow users to host existing Windows and Linux applications on Windows Azure. These VMs are key to Microsoft's plan to expand Azure from more of a pure platform-as-a-service offering to a PaaS plus IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) one.
Microsoft also could announce the general availability on or around April 15 of its Azure Web Sites (codenamed "Antares") and Windows Azure Virtual Network (codenamed "Brooklyn") services, too, according to some of my contacts.
Microsoft officials are declining to say when Microsoft will make the persistent Windows and Linux VMs; Azure Web Sites; and/or Azure Virtual Network generally available.
Other server and cloud announcements Microsoft execs made during Day 1 of MMS on April 8:
- Windows Azure Backup is now available as a public paid previewf. This service is aimed at those wanting to store server data offsite, with automated backups to the cloud available.
- System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure is now available in public preview form. This pack allows users to monitor availability and performance of the Azure services using their existing System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) environment.
- System Center Advisor Connector for Operations Manager is available as a free, public preview for System Center 2012 SP1 users.
Microsoft also is continuing to beat the "software-defined networking" (SDN) drum, announcing its participation in OpenDaylight, an open-source project focused on SDN.
"By participating in the multi-platform endeavor, Microsoft is demonstrating our commitment to an open, extensible and standards-based approach to SDN and network virtualization," according to Microsoft's official statement.
Microsoft is continuing to refine its messaging around Windows Azure, and recently began touting Azure as something customers should treat as part of their own datacenters, even though customers cannot actually run Azure inside their own datacenters.