Microsoft sets January date for Azure

On day one of PDC 2009, executives Ray Ozzie and Bob Muglia filled in details about the launch of its Azure cloud platform

Microsoft announced yesterday that its Azure cloud platform will go live on 4 January, 2010, with billing starting at the beginning of February. The announcement was made by Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, on the first day of the company's 2009 Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

Integration with Visual Studio 2010 will simplify application development and deployment, he said, and there will also be support for automatically locking data into geographic pairs of datacentres, for example keeping European data in Dublin and Amsterdam. Key new features include a new storage type, the X-Drive, which mounts SQL Azure BLOBs as NTFS drives

Ozzie said that Microsoft now offered "a single coherent development platform" for its "three screens plus cloud" strategy of deploying applications across computers, mobile devices, home-entertainment systems and hosted internet services. He said Azure now supported more than the original subset of ASP.NET, including native code in C,  C++ and Java and open web development tools including PHP and MySQL.

Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, said migration was a key feature of Azure. "One of the key things will be our ability to take the investments you have made in apps that run in your own environment and take those forward into the cloud. We are learning how we can structure the cloud application model to take existing applications forward."

One new piece of the Azure platform aimed at this process, said Muglia, is a new connectivity agent code-named Sydney that links on-premises servers with legacy applications to Azure.

Another is AppFabric, Microsoft's new IIS-based application server, which provides caching, application endpoints, failover and load-balancing. Currently in beta for Windows Server, AppFabric will be available on Azure in 2010.

Kroll principal technical architect Christopher Steffen told ZDNet UK: "When you're trying to figure out how to best optimise a virtualised infrastructure that kind of tool is incredibly important. This is a major problem to figure out where most of the resources are going — and potentially optimise the app accordingly."

Ozzie also announced two new cloud services from Microsoft. PinPoint is a catalogue for Microsoft and non-Microsoft hosted business services. The other, currently code-named Dallas, is a site for managing data feeds from public and commercial data sources, treating data as another service which can be remixed and reused. Microsoft Technical Fellow Dave Campbell described it as "taking the friction out of discovering, exploring and using data in new ways". The US Federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, noted in a video link that "in the public sector, when government democratises data, interesting things happen".