Microsoft starts moving more of its own services onto Windows Azure

Microsoft officials said earlier this year to watch for new and next-generation apps for both internal Microsoft use and external customer use to debut on Windows Azure. It looks like that's gradually starting to happen.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Up until recently, relatively few of Microsoft own products or services were running on the company's Windows Azure operating system.

Some of Live Mesh was on it. The Holm energy-tracking app was an Azure-hosted service. Pieces of its HealthVault solution were on Azure. But Hotmail, CRM Online, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) of hosted enterprise apps? Nope, nope and nope.

I asked the Softies earlier this year if the lack of internal divisions hosting on top of Azure could be read as a lack of faith in Microsoft's cloud OS. Was it just too untried and unproven for "real" apps and services?

The Azure leaders told me to watch for new and next-generation apps for both internal Microsoft use and external customer use to debut on Azure in the not-too-distant future. It looks like that's gradually starting to happen.

Microsoft Research announced on October 18 a beta version of WikiBhasha, "a multilingual content creation tool for Wikipedia, codeveloped by WikiPedia and Microsoft. The beta is an open-source MediaWiki extension, available under the Apache License 2.0, as well as in user-gadget and bookmarklet form. It's the bookmarklet version that is hosted on Azure.

Gaming is another area where Microsoft has started relying on Azure. According to a case study Microsoft published last week, the "Windows Gaming Experience" team built social extensions into Bing Games on Azure, enabling that team to create in five months a handful of new hosting and gaming services. (It's not the games themselves hosted on Azure; it's complementary services like secure tokens, leaderboard scores, gamer-preferences settings, etc.) The team made use of Azure's hosting, compute and storage elements to build these services that could be accessed by nearly two million concurrent gamers at launch in June -- and that can scale up to "support five times the amount of users," the Softies claim.

Microsoft also is looking to Azure as it builds its next-generation IntelliMirror product/service, according to an article Microsoft posted to its download center. Currently, IntelliMirror is a set of management features built into Windows Server. In the future (around the time of Windows 8, as the original version of the article said), some of thesee services may actually be hosted in the cloud.

An except from the edited, October 15 version of the IntelliMirror article:

The "IntelliMirror service management team, like many of commercial customers of Microsoft, is evaluating the Windows Azure cloud platform to establish whether it can offer an alternative solution for the DPM (data protection manager) requirements in IntelliMirror. The IntelliMirror service management team sees the flexibility of Windows Azure as an opportunity to meet growing user demand for the service by making the right resources available when and where they are needed.

"The first stage of the move toward the cloud is already underway. Initially, IntelliMirror service management team plans to set up a pilot on selective IntelliMirror and DPM client servers by early 2011, to evaluate the benefits of on-premises versus the cloud for certain parts of the service."

There's still no definitive timeframe as to when -- or even if -- Microsoft plans to move things like Hotmail, Bing or BPOS onto Azure. For now, these services run in Microsoft's datacenters but not on servers running Azure.

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