Codename Antares: A new Microsoft hosting platform for Web apps

At the Microsoft Hosting Summit this week, Microsoft execs are talking up what's coming on the hosting-platform side of the house.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's Azure App Platform Team -- the domain these days of Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie -- is working on a hosting framework for Web apps that will work across both Windows Azure and private-cloud datacenters.

That framework, codenamed "Antares," and likely to be known officially as the Microsoft Web Hosting Framework, was mentioned on March 28, the opening day of the Microsoft Hosting Summit 2012 in Bellevue, Wash. (according to a couple of tweets I noticed from the event).

The Summit is aimed at Microsoft's network of hosting partners worldwide who offer customers hosted applications from Microsoft and other developers.

I heard the Antares codename a few months ago but didn't know what it was. Today, I searched for information on it again and found this Microsoft job posting:

"The Antares team is changing the game by introducing a symmetrical Azure and on-prem hosting framework for many web applications created in many languages and stacks. We are poised to offer developers a quick and painless Azure onramp experience as well as enable our partner to quickly setup a fully managed, secure, multi-tenant hosting environment on public or private clouds. If this is intriguing, talk to us in the Azure Application Platform team. We are building the Microsoft Web Hosting Framework, a world class offering allowing for massive scale website lifecycle management on the Microsoft platform."

The most interesting bits (to me): The coming framework works in both public (Azure) and private (Windows Server) cloud scenarios. It will allow hosting of apps created in "many languages and stacks." I'm wondering whether this is the successor in some ways to the Microsoft Web platform, via which the Softies have been providing developers with ways to host their applications -- especially open-source ones -- using providers with no direct affiliation to Microsoft.

(Remember Microsoft's cloud roadmap for 2012? I'm thinking the mention in that document about the ability to set up Wordpress and Drupal on Azure "without writing code" could have to do with Antares.)

Update: Maybe the Wordpress/Drupal mention in the roadmap is separate from the Antares deliverables. It looks like Microsoft already is doing/has done a lot of work to enable Wordpress to run on Azure without modification.

I've asked Microsoft officials if they'll share anything more about Antares at this point, but no word back so far.

Meanwhile, based on other tweets from the event, Microsoft officials are emphasizing to attendees of the hosting summit that its coming wave of products like Windows Server 8 and System Center 2012 are optimized to work in multi-tenant public and private cloud environments.

Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela was the lead-off keynoter on March 28. Attendees said Capossela provided an interesting list of Microsoft's current big bets:

  • cloud
  • new hardware
  • natural interface
  • enterprise and consumer
  • first party (as in Microsoft-developed apps, I'm assuming)
  • Windows

I'm curious about the "first party" item here. Otherwise, I'd agree that all of these are definitely "big bets" which the Softies need to succeed in 2012 and beyond....

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